Open Windows (2014)

(On Cable TV, April 2016) Anyone who has been paying attention to my reviews knows that I have a weakness for gimmicky thrillers that try to do something new. Open Windows may not be completely original in choosing to show its action as if from a computer screen (a segment in V/H/S/2 did it a year before, Unfriended did it again a few months later), but it’s certainly unlike any other thrillers out there, and its willingness to try something new (no matter how ludicrous those things may be) is nothing short of refreshing. Here, the action begins quietly enough, as a young man (Elijah Wood, effectively nebbish) sits in a hotel room, preparing to meet a beloved actress after winning one of those “dinner with a fan” contest. But things get more complicated when someone contacts our hero and makes increasingly disturbing requests, hacking various devices to provide intimate access to the actress’s life. It escalates from there, all the way to tasering, torture, SWATting, car chases, massive explosions and a few hackers messing with each other’s plans. All seen through a laptop screen, even though the camera pans and the owner of the laptop isn’t as clear as you’d think. The actress is rather well-played by porn-star-turned-mainstream-actress Sasha Gray, and Open Windows gets extra points for irony by making viewers feel dirty and ashamed of watching her undress. Of course, it’s not a good idea to go into the film expecting any realism: Aside from the impossible technology featured throughout the film, the plot piles on preposterous developments until anyone’s suspension of disbelief topples. This makes the third act feel far less involving than if the film had stuck to more believable plot points, but that’s part of the film’s charm in a way. I’m good with crazy, especially if it’s crazy-new, and Open Windows cleverly scratches that itch. Some of the imagery used late in the film approaches techno-impressionism, and writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s script has some awe-inspiring moments and structural elements built into it. It’s too bad that it’s not under just a bit more control, with some superfluous plot twists excised in favour of a cleaner ending. But I’ll take what I’ve got, especially considering that the film flew under the radar of mainstream moviegoers and found itself a little niche on Cable channels. It’s quite a bit better than one would expect, and in-between this, Grand Piano, Pawn Shop Chronicles and Maniac, Elijah Woods is developing quite a bit of a filmography as the go-to lead actor for crazy thriller high-concepts.

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