Back in 2007, director Nacho Vigalondo raised eyebrows with his low-budget gem, the Spanish-language feature Timecrimes. Evidently, the man is talented and inventive and, true to form, his new film Open Windows starts with playful promise. Vigalondo instantly throws the viewer off with tricks Wes Craven explored in the 90s. For instance, in one particularly confusing scene, Vigalondo himself is playing a director in a film within the film, meta-ironically joking about the actress being reduced to a porn star. The actress, Jill, is played by Sasha Grey – a porn star in real life.
The main protagonist, Nick (Elijah Wood), is introduced with a bang. He’s immediately enticed into a deadly game, encouraged by a mysterious hacker who may (or may not) be manipulating him. De Palma’s thematic premise, recalling Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and the aesthetics of late-period Giallo, converge as techno-sleaze, amping up the suspense of Open Windows‘ opening third. Although Wood relies heavily on his resting startled face a little too much, and Grey tends to cold indifference, the two leads get by.
Vigalondo pulls no punches in the number of themes he tries to pack in here – the degree to which hi-tech society voyeuristically dissects its obsession with celebrity culture, the uncertainty the internet community faces when tackling security, the pooling of power, sociopaths – and the opening scenes act as a cautionary tale on the cultural consequences of Baudrillardian hyper-reality (via multi-medium PR, marketing etc), which bloats and floats otherwise bland, hackneyed franchises.
Sadly, the film takes a turn for the absurd (roughly around the time the inapposite French hackers make an appearance). The antagonist, Chord, disconnects verbal contact with Nick for at least 20 minutes; the audience is then subjected to some sub-par car chases, which are devoid of genuine tension. To his credit, Vigalondo still plays around: he blurs the lines between diegetic and non-diegetic sound and uses graphics to jolt our (battered) suspension of disbelief. However, the integrity of the plot wanes after a dizzying string of meta red herrings and implausible set-pieces, and the viewing experience deteriorates into unenjoyable nonsense.
In the final third, Vigalondo attempts to touch on deeper themes again (Jill’s potential death being an online fetish is hinted at), but by then, the fundamentals have become so disjointed that attempts at societal commentary are superfluous. Sadly, the film never recovers; the haphazard writing simply can’t support the ambition Vigalondo desperately wants to realise.
Open Windows was released nation-wide on 17th October 2014
Watch the trailer for Open Windows here: