Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Glowing-eyed telepathic zombies are attacking a bowling alley! What’re a guy and a girl desperately holding onto their humanity to do? Some sexy fun time should take their minds off the brain-dead apocalypse. But wait, what’s this? It’s just a movie—specifically the trailer, premiering at Austin, Texas’s annual Fantastic Fest, for sassy starlet Jill Goddard’s (Sasha Grey) latest horror opus. Clever fake-out. But as the clearly irritated prima donna takes the stage for a cattish Q&A, another layer gets peeled: We’re actually watching the event via live-stream on the personal computer of Goddard’s number one fan Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood), who’s won an online contest to have dinner with his beloved scream queen.
Or has he? Part of the fun of Nacho Vigalando’s ultimately too-clever shocker is watching Nick get pulled deeper and deeper into a byzantine conspiracy—involving Jill, a masked kidnapper (Neil Maskell), a trio of French hackers and an identity-shifting tech guru (basically Bill Gates by way of Banksy)—without ever leaving his laptop. That’s not to say Open Windows is the equivalent of a single-set play. Though there’s some Rear Window-esque stage setting in our meek protagonist’s hotel room, Vigalondo is quick to contrive a scenario in which Nick is forced to go on the run and keep his MacBook (or its Apple-rival equivalent) running.
The mobile PC gives us one perspective, but that title is literal: There are cameras everywhere, and their respective views pop up on Nick’s desktop as the plot requires, to thrillingly kaleidoscopic effect. (Talk about a movie made for watching while web-surfing.) Wood gets to mine some of the same paranoid pathos as he did in the recent giallo homage Grand Piano, and Grey does well in a role that, at times, leans too heavily on her status as a porn movie icon to facilely implicate the fanboy demographic (see the near-exploitative striptease sequence). The whole movie is a clever stunt—there’s even a crazy climactic car chase!—that intrigues as long the overall endgame remains murky. Unfortunately, Vigalondo is out to make a larger statement about the debasements of our plugged-in culture that his cheap-thrills architecture barely supports.
Opens November 7