Shudder UK film review: Open Windows
James R | On 20, Apr 2015
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell
Watch Open Windows online in the UK: Shudder UK / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The Internet not always a nice place. Social media has enabled us to connect with strangers as well as friends, but it has also revealed – and given a voice to – a horde of sexist users who think that they are entitled to see female celebrities naked or abuse other people. Cameras and streaming video have given us a way to watch things on the go, but also exposed our activities to all kinds of prying eyes. Hackers invade, steal and make private things public. And, all the while, authorities surveil every click they can.
Into this wades Open Windows, a thriller that aims to take a shot at all of these things and more. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, it follows Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood), a fan who has won a competition to meet his favourite actress: Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). When she apparently calls the whole thing off, though, he’s offered the chance to see her another way: by hacking into her phone and spying on her. That offer comes from an anonymous man on the phone, who sends a link to his laptop (note to those at home: never click on a link that magically appears on your laptop).
Clicking on it takes Nick into the seedy world of… well, the Internet. Ordered about by the voice on the phone, he finds himself in a game of cat and mouse. Presuming the cat is nasty piece of misogynist filth and the mouse has a really good broadband connection.
As the title suggests, the action all takes place within open windows on Nick’s monitor. It’s a novel piece of presentation and – despite a tendency to zoom in and out for his own ends – Nacho nails the simultaneous sense of urgency that looking at 10 things at once on your computer brings. Even the introduction of phone cameras and pinball cameras to allow events to leave the hotel room is appealingly imaginative.
But that sense of chaos extends to the narrative too: desperate to keep things going just another minute longer, the script descends into a string of increasingly illogical twists; a heap of contrived silliness that hopes things will keep moving fast enough to stop anyone noticing. But slow it all down and Open Windows becomes far more troubling: plot holes are more profilic than pre-installed AOL software on a PC in the 1990s and, more worrying, Grey’s female target is revealed as a wafer-thin figure to be ogled and bullied. Elijah Wood delivers a solid performance – along with last year’s Grand Piano, he’s becoming the Tom Cruise of remote-controlled blackmail – but Without sympathy for our main protagonist either, the shallow objectifying becomes more obvious.
On the surface, the film is frenetic fun that promises to provide an insightful message about the state of the web today, particularly in terms of women and celebrities. The horror genre’s male-gazing traditions make it an even more intriguing prospect. But Open Windows wants to have its cake and eat it, turning from a spiked commentary on sexist fanboy behaviour into just another example of it. The Internet is not always a nice place. For all its innovation, Open Windows fits right in.
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