OPEN WINDOWS (2014)
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Screened at Film4 FrightFest 2014
A young guy named Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) wins a contest to go on a dinner date with movie star Jill Goddard. As the webmaster of a fan site of hers, Nick is overjoyed with the opportunity to meet his idol until he’s informed by one of the contest organisers, Chord, that she has in fact cancelled the date. Not wanting to disappoint the young man, Chord shares access to some off-limit cameras at the movie Q+A session in which Jill is attending, but as their collaboration unfolds, Nick senses something isn’t quite right as Chord continues to hack into various technology through Nick’s laptop to the point where both Nick and Jill’s lives are in danger.
Directed by the talented Nacho Vigalondo, director of the tremendous Spanish time travel film, Timecrimes, OPEN WINDOWS is essentially a cat-and-mouse thriller, with the character of Nick used as a pawn by the mysterious Chord to orchestrate his dastardly master plan against the highly sought after actress, Jill Goddard, played by porn-star turned actress Sasha Grey. The bulk of the film is told through the eyes of Nick or through that of his laptop’s webcam, with Nick summoned to open various links and follow instructions given to him by the voice through his computer. Nick’s naivety makes him the perfect tool to exploit and his love and curiosity of Jill Goddard, as well as his blind faith in authority, leaves him obeying everything Chord says, which lands him into more trouble than he could ever have imagined.
Right from the very start of the movie, the viewer is engrossed in the tale of Nick. Maybe because of the way it is presented, and the fact that many of us use computers on a daily basis, it’s intriguing to watch to see what unfolds behind every click and drag of the mouse. The authorative voice booming through the laptop’s speakers soon turns ominous and commanding as Nick is instructed to perform some shady actions. This is just the start of the nightmare which Nick finds himself embroiled in.
Casting Elijah Wood as Nick is a perfect choice, and it’s so great to see Elijah take to these roles in thrillers and horrors so well. Unlike his part in Maniac, Elijah is starring as one of the victims of the movie, manipulated by the antagonist to essentially become the bad guy and scapegoat for Chord’s actions. Britain’s very own Neil Maskell stars as Chord, the determined voice through the laptop, who’s character is far more threatening in voice than he in person, even if his actions say otherwise. Starring as Jill Goddard, the object of seemingly everyone’s affections, is Sasha Grey who plays the character as a young woman who’s the hottest thing out of Hollywood yet seems disinterested in the entire industry.
If you’re a techno nut and love your web surfing, then this hacking thriller will be right up your street even if liberties are taken with the way in which Nick’s laptop is comprimised. A strong three quarters of the film keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, but the final act, when all the loose ends essentially come together, becomes far too twisty and silly to care about. The tension built up throughout the movie, leading to something hopefully climatic, seems to just fizzle out. No matter what shock twists and turns are thrown into the mix, it doesn’t seem to hit the right note, which leaves a disappointed aftertaste.
The film has good ideas and is incredibly easy to watch, especially with the way in which it is shot and with the strong performances from the talented cast, but a mixture of ideas just leaves the final act as a wasted opportunity. The twist and turn nature was better suited to the excellent Timecrimes, but a more simplistic resolve would have worked better with Open Windows.