© 1997 Bandeira Entertainment

The House of Yes (1997)

Continuing with my exploration of creepy twin movies…

Most twin movies, be they horror or comedy, usually revolve around identical twins, played either by real-life twins or single actors doubled by trick photography. There are not many movies about fraternal twins, especially male/female sets of twins.

The House of Yes is based on a stage play, and the film feels like it, with only five characters trapped by rain inside a large Washington D.C. during Thanksgiving weekend 1983. Marty (Josh Hamilton) trip home from school for Thanksgiving is anxiously awaited by his twin sister Jacqueline (Parker Posey), who obsesses over every detail of news from Marty.  When their awkward younger brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) informs her that Marty is bringing a friend with him for the weekend, she does not take it well. She does not deal well with change. When Marty arrives in the middle of a hurricane with Lesly (Tori Spelling) who he introduces as his fiancée, Jackie’s tenuous self-control quickly flies out the window. When the twins leave the room, their mother tells Lesly that she has no idea who their real father really is and that when they were born, Jackie was holding Marty’s penis in her hand. The girlfriend is made even more uncomfortable when her fiancé’s younger brother flirts with her.

Family conversations with and without Jackie reveal that she has been treated for mental problems. Although no aliment is mentioned, it is suggested that she has bipolar disorder. Her younger brother has been assigned the task of making sure she doesn’t drink, but she is easily able to trick him into letting her have a glass of wine. The Kennedys are near neighbors, which is a simple fact of life for the rest of the family, but Jackie is obsessed with her namesake, Jackie O. Voiceover narration and Super-8 flashbacks reveal that when they were teenagers, Jacqueline went to an Ides of March party dressed in a pink Chanel suit with ketchup and macaroni (for brains) splattered on it. Although no one at the party found the costume funny, it somehow became a defining moment for her, which she continues to try to relive.  As more details of Jackie and Marty’s relationship becomes known over the long weekend, the weirder it is.

Released by Miramax Films during their peak, and starring indie queen Parker Posey, The House of Yes came at the tail end of the ‘90s American independent film boom that started in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s with films like sex, lies and videotape and Slacker. Set in a single location, with only five actors (plus Rachael Leigh Cook doubling for a young Parker Posey in flashbacks) and no special effects, the film gets by on a solid script and compelling performances from B-list actors. When a chamber play type films have occasionally been made after the end of the ‘90s, such as Richard Linklater’s Tape with Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, a couple of A-list actors are required to get people to go see it.

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