Elijah Wood has had a very strange career hasn’t he? The dude starred in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time and seemingly could have then gone on to do whatever he wanted and what he chose to do is a series of small scale but largely interesting films. I took a look at his remake of Maniac in the first marathon and really enjoyed it, and earlier this year was also surprised by how much I enjoyed Grand Piano. Open Windows looked to be another in the “weird Elijah Wood movies” chain and while it doesn’t compete with those other 2 in terms of quality, it certainly continues the trend of Wood participating in some pretty unique fare.
Wood is Nick Chambers, an awkward guy who runs a fan website for actress Jill Goddard (former porn star Sasha Grey). He is staying in a hotel as he believes he has come to town as the winner of a contest to have dinner with Goddard however he is called up by a man claiming to be her campaign manager and is informed that Jill has canceled the dinner. The man, who calls himself Chord (and eerily enough is played by the same guy, Neil Maskell, who played Jay in yesterday’s movie Kill List) promises Nick access to a series of cameras that will allow him to watch everything that Jill is up to. Not surprisingly it turns out Chord may not have the best of intentions and Nick has to get to work and stop Chord from doing some nefarious shit.
The most interesting thing about Open Windows is easily its stylistic approach as the majority of the movie, especially in the first half, is taking place in various display windows (I refuse to directly invoke the title here) on Nick’s laptop screen. The camera will simply pan around the screen, going from a window showing Nick’s face, over to a chat window, and then perhaps over to some surveillance camera footage featuring Jill. It sounds gimmicky as all hell, and it absolutely is, but you know what it actually proves to be quite effective. It allows the proceedings to unfold very organically as it feels as though we are watching one long, unbroken take of the events. This approach is also often used effectively to increase suspense, such as panning back and forth between Nick scrambling not to get caught in Jill’s hotel room and the security footage showing someone on their way up to bust him. When the movie began I was absolutely ready to hate this presentation method but it ended up getting me invested in the movie in a way that I imagine a more generic style would not have been able to manage. Again, the majority of these words only apply to the first half of the movie.
This first chunk is when the movie is most effective as you aren’t exactly sure what Chord is up to you or what he wants with Nick. There’s a great deal of genuine suspense and everything is off to a very promising start. Unfortunately for me a lot of that good will falls apart in the second half. The movie becomes less about suspense and effective set pieces and more about plot twists and generic thriller tropes. We are also introduced to a trio of French hackers who try to help Nick suss out what is happening but their inclusion often feels unnecessary, like the writer thought they needed a few more characters in the movie. Once we find out who Chord is and what he is up to, I couldn’t help but react with nothing more than a shrug and a disinterested sigh. Of course the movie still has a few more surprises up its sleeve as they keep whipping out twist after twist but none of them had much of an impact and eventually they got a little tiresome. I started to long for the more straight-forward approach of the earlier sections.
Oh and I have no fucking clue what was happening in the very last scene. None.
Elijah Wood is his standard Elijah Wood-y self. As with Grand Piano he does a fine job playing confused, scared and overwhelmed, though he does get to stretch out a bit in the latter pieces of the film. He’s quite good, no real surprise there. The bigger surprise is Sasha Grey who easily turns in her best performance here. I mean it’s certainly nothing special but considering how bad she was in stuff like Would You Rather, I was impressed that she gave a credible performance at all and that her acting was in no way distracting. So yes my standards for her were quite low but at the very least she managed to meet them, if not even slightly exceed them. After seeing what Neil Maskell is capable of in Kill List, it’s a little disappointing to see him saddled with a fairly stock villain character but he certainly brings menace to the role and the accent certainly doesn’t hurt matters either.
Prior to watching it I saw several outlets mention that Open Windows is Rear Window for the technology age. I’m going to go ahead and vehemently disagree with this assessment. Yes ok you do have the voyeuristic aspects here as you did in the Hitchcock classic but it plays a surprisingly small part in the movie as Grey gets directly involved in the action quite quickly. Plus I remember Rear Window having a lot more suspense and a lot less boobs and car chases so I really don’t think it’s an apt comparison just because they both happen to have “Window” in the title.
Open Windows starts pretty strong and has a unique way of presenting the action but it soon gives way to fairly standard pieces of business that grind a lot of the potential to a halt. Throw in a bunch of twists and what I’m half convinced is pure nonsense at the end and you got yourself 50% of a good movie, which in the horror genre, I will often gladly take.