The webcam movie isn’t an entirely new idea. 2013’s The Den, for example, is still fresh in our minds, and the concept has been carried out to varying degrees of success throughout the Internet age.
That said, Open Windows feels like something entirely unique within this sub-sub-genre (is the webcam thing its own sub-genre within the found-footage sub-genre?). It makes use of a real-time element (which on its own is certainly not new either), and takes place entirely on a computer screen. If it sounds boring, it’s not. At least not through most of the 100-minute runtime.
First off, here’s the official synopsis:
Oscar-nominated writer-director Nacho Vigalondo (The ABCs of Death, Extraterrestrial, V/H/S Viral) creates an action-packed world of voyeurism and suspense in his thriller OPEN WINDOWS. Nick (Elijah Wood, Maniac, The Lord of the Rings) is excited to discover that he’s won a dinner date with his favorite actress, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey, Would You Rather, The Girlfriend Experience). But when Jill refuses to honor the contest, her manager Chord (Neil Maskell, Wild Bill, Pusher) makes an offer he can’t refuse: the ability to view Jill secretly via computer. Nick begins watching the unknowing star on her webcam, not realizing that this decision will put both himself and Jill at risk as they enter a terrifying world of cat-and-mouse where nothing—and no one—are as they seem.
VOD Release: October 2nd / Theaters: November 7th
There’s no question that the project sought to bring something to the table that we’ve never seen, and it does this at a steady pace for the first hour or so before things start to take a turn toward the less coherent and substantially more unbelievable, though it’s certainly worth sticking around until the end.
The story basically follows a path from somewhat believable in a “Yeah, I guess that could happen if someone was dedicated enough” kind of way to stretching it a bit, to stretching it to the point where it completely snaps, and finally by the conclusion, your mind is completely fucked (this is the guy who made Timecrimes after all). In other words, it starts as more of a conventional thriller, but turns into something else entirely.
It really is more of a suspense thriller than a conventional horror film (especially if you compare it directly to something like The Den), but there are some creepy and otherwise uncomfortable elements that should satisfy genre fans. There’s also a guy in black gloves with a knife, so that’s certainly a familiar trait. Don’t go in looking for gore though.
The subject matter is actually fairly thought-provoking, and is particularly timely in light of “The Fappening” and various other celebrity leaks and scandals that dominate the Internet’s headlines. In fact, the film also offers a comment on our very culture which promotes the exploitation of celebrities. It also makes you think about just how vulnerable you are as a user of technology. Are you reading this on a device that has a camera pointed toward your face? Well, you’re probably being watched by somebody.
I believe it also comments on the general objectification of women and men who think they are entitled to something from them. Watching the film, it was easy to recall the infamous Isla Vista mass shooting from a few months ago.
The performances were good, though some of the dialogue feels a bit forced to simplify things for viewers, which considering some of what happens, may actually not be such a bad thing in hindsight.
I don’t know if Open Windows is a must-own, but it’s worth a watch at the very least.
We’ll conclude with these words from Vigalondo: “This is a film about the opportunity of observing without being observed; about the fear of being exposed every second of our lives; about the right not to be in front of a camera. We follow the action from hundreds of different points of view, but the fundamental stance will be taken when we turn off the computer forever. I hope that watching the film is like making the movie – at least the adventure it was for us all.”
On a side note, I also couldn’t help but be reminded of the video for A Tribe Called Quest’s Scenario, which follows a similar visual format.
Open Windows is out on VOD on October 2nd and in theaters November 7th.