Open Windows (2014) Review

FF bannerOpen_Windows_poster[1]Open Windows (2014)

Dir: Nacho Vigalondo

Written By: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Iván González

100 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014

Following her refusal to have dinner with a competition winner, a diva actress finds herself at the mercy of a hacker and the unsuspecting man he’s chosen to do his bidding.

Much like the similarly-themed The Den, which also screened at Frightfestthis year, Elijah Wood vehicle Open Windows is presented entirely via computer screens. Where The Den utilised this gimmick to create tension and a sense of claustrophobia, Open Windows establishes a race against time that begins almost as soon as its protagonist first logs on.

Wood, who is quickly making a name for himself in genre pictures following a star turn in Franck Khalfoun’s stunning 2012 Maniac reboot, is Nick, a normal guy who runs a website in support of popular actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). After winning a competition to have dinner with Jill, Nick suddenly finds himself at the mercy of a ruthless hacker who can control pretty much any electronic device within a certain remit, including Nick’s computer, Jill’s mobile phone and every laptop in a ten mile radius. Although he’s clearly an evil genius, the hacker (voiced by Kill List’s Neil Maskell, weirdly enough) speaks with a thick Cockney accent, meaning much of his dialogue comes across a bit funnier than is perhaps intended.

Open_1[1]A decent premise is stretched slightly thin over a 100-minute running time, but Wood is an enigmatic screen presence and he does desperate, weak everyman well. Grey, last seen overacting in the rather good Would You Rather, is a good fit for the spoilt Jill, a woman who believes she’s worth far more than she is, and whose strength of character is perhaps a bit lacking. She overacts once again, even when she’s starring in the film within the film, but she seems more comfortable here at least. There’s a nod to her previous career as a porn star too, which hints that maybe she’s got a sense of humour about herself.

Written and directed by Timecrimes’ Nacho Vigalondo, who also contributed a segment to V/H/S: Viral, Open Windows is a fast-paced, understandably silly film that believes its plot is much cleverer than it actually is. The Den took a bigger risk by limiting the action to one PC monitor and one woman. Open Windows branches out by encompassing every screen in L.A. and, at times, it feels almost too inclusive. Vigaolondo may be making a point about privacy and internet security, but the film doesn’t seem to really understand either. A subplot, involving a Paris-based group of hackers, provides much-needed respite from Nick’s troubles, as the dudes in question believe him to be a legendary terrorist known as Nevada, and consistently refer to him by that title in spite of how irritated he gets. In a film that seems to take itself more seriously than is necessary, it’s a nice addition.

With a minimal score, and absolutely zero jump scares, Open Windows is a refreshingly low key thriller. There’s an inventive, albeit slightly unrealistic, twist and the tension is built remarkably well considering Wood spends most of his time talking to a various screens. The technology may be a bit out there, but it’s still fun to marvel at, even if the majority of people will roll their eyes at how easily each device is comprised – although, in the wake of the iCloud leak, it may be more true to life than we can imagine. The biggest issue is that, without giving in to the madness, it’s difficult to get lost in the narrative and there are some who will refuse to buy into the terror plot at all, because it is overcomplicated and outlandish.

Open_2[1]Open Windows is a diverting enough flick, once the required suspension of disbelief is attained, and the leads are likeable, but IT experts best steer clear – there are moments when even the most dim computer user will call bullshit over what the mysterious hacker seems to be able to control.

Rating: 6/10

Would You Rather (2012) Review

 

Would You Rather (2012)

Dir. David Guy Levy   –  93 Minutes

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Brittany Snow, Eddie Steeples & Sasha Grey

Would you Rather tells the story of Iris played by Brittany Snow who is a 20 something young woman who after her parents are killed has to look after her brother who is suffering from Leukaemia and the cost of a bone marrow transplant is just out of the question. Out of the blue she gets a call to see her doctor , when she arrives her doctor is with a rather dapper gentleman named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who explains he comes from a rich philanthropic family who wish to help Iris. All she needs to do is turn up at his family home the following evening where she and 7 others are invited to a dinner party and to play a game where the winner gets all the medical expenses paid for and all treatment expedited.

Iris decides to mull the invitation over but eventually realises this may be her only hope as her brother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. She is picked up the following evening by a driver and taken to a large house where she meets the fellow guests/contestants and they sit down for a meal. Now not long after arrival things start to take a more sinister turn, firstly Iris is a vegetarian and Lambrick offers her $10,000 to eat the steak and foie gras in front of her, which she does. Then we learn another guest Conway (played by the great John Heard) is a recovering alcoholic and he is offered $50,000 to drink a decanter of scotch.

 

And so the games begin, a little silly if yet with sinister overtones to begin with until Lambrick starts the real game of Would you Rather where each contestant is given two options , failure to choose or refusal means the person is eliminated . The game will carry on until only one remains.

And so this is the setting for the film, not the most original of ideas but as Would you Rather is set for the majority in one room it leads to a really effective and very claustrophobic little indy horror that draws you in an is full of little twists and turns along the way that at times had me squirming in my seat.

The cast works really well together, Combs as always wonderfully overacts as the eccentric millionaire , Brittany Snow is fantastic as the main protagonist with just enough empathy and fragility to win you over. Other member include Eddie Steeples and Enver Gjokaj as the good guys , June Squibb as the disabled Linda and the fantastic Sasha Grey as the nasty Amy.

There are a few huge plot holes and some issues with scripting , but in the main Would you Rather keeps you glued to your seat watching as a seemingly innocent game descends into much much more.

This may not be the most original film of the year or indeed the best, but it is another great watch for horror fans and worth it just to see Jeffrey Combs go for it and Sasha Grey pout . Standout star (and exec producer) Brittany Snow holds the whole thing together and makes this a really impressive feature that deserves a much wider release.

Decisions decisions !!      7/10