Screamfest 2018: OPEN 24 HOURS (2018)

Open 24 Hours.jpg

Studio:      Zee Studios International
Director:    Padraig Reynolds
Writer:      Padraig Reynolds
Producer:  Shibani Kapur, R.P. Khemenad
Stars:     Vanessa Grasse, Brendan Fletcher, Emily Tennant, Cole Vigue, Daniel O’Meara, Selina Giles

Review Score:

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Summary:

Visions of the serial killer boyfriend she once tried to kill haunt a troubled woman during the night shift of her new job.


Synopsis:     

Screamfest Film Festival Review:

Mary’s life hasn’t improved much since being released from a mental hospital. She served a stint there for setting her boyfriend on fire. When the owner of a Podunk gas station where she hopes to land a cashier gig asks if her former beau deserved it, Mary barely hesitates before emphatically nodding yes.

You see, Mary’s boyfriend was James Lincoln Fields, the serial killer known as ‘The Rain Ripper’ for his trademark of murdering victims during downpours. Frozen by fear after discovering his despicable secret, the media dubbed Mary ‘The Watcher’ when James forced her to witness his awful acts. Then Mary summoned the strength to light a match, bringing a brief pause to her seemingly never-ending nightmare.

Now, Mary suffers from paranoid delusions that have her seeing James in his raincoat as well as bloody victims begging for help. Someone appears to be calling with cryptic threats too. Mary doesn’t dare tell her parole officer what’s happening, lest she risk jeopardizing her new job. Her lonely first night on the gas station’s graveyard shift holds even more horrors in store when new bodies start dropping and frightful visions shock her eyes.

Has James really returned? Are these hallucinations in her head? Or could another hand be at work aiming to drive Mary mad?

“Open 24 Hours” recalls the sort of simply stylized slasher that was commonplace in the 1990s. If it starred Jennifer Love Hewitt or a couple of moonlighting WB flavors of the season, and maybe threw in a Creed or Lifehouse B-side as a soundtrack single, the film would have its own Scream Factory Collector’s Edition by now.

Instead, “Open 24 Hours” arrives two decades past the peak of that kind of horror’s heyday. Nowadays, hitting this tone of terror targeted at twentysomethings generally garners regard along the lines of, “I don’t want to spend time looking for something else so I guess I’ll watch it on Netflix.”

I realize how that statement sounds, though it isn’t intended to be demeaning. It’s a mere matter of fact that even though “Open 24 Hours” looks professionally polished and strikes notes it needs to, the movie blazes no remarkable trails.

“Open 24 Hours” filmed on a soundstage in Serbia. You can tell. All things considered, the gas station set mostly reads as realistic, especially on the outside. Inside, the illusion loses a lot of luster from the slim pickings on scant store shelves conspicuously absent of brand names and a magazine rack whose publications have generic titles like “City News.” Even before taking budget constraints into consideration, production design does a terrific job. It’s just obvious that everything comes from carpentry, props, and a printing machine.

But the movie does much more than go through the motions of minimum point-and-shoot mechanics. Lighting drips with rich colors. Rain machines drench exteriors in slick showers. “Open 24 Hours” doesn’t lack a sleek look.

Performances also hit well below par on a green where mediocre efforts would have been equally acceptable (that’s a good thing, if you’re not up on golf analogies). Dressed in a plaid flannel and blue jeans, Vanessa Grasse gives Mary the authenticity of a regular girl you went to school with, not another photogenic actress. Cole Vigue purses his lips to the point where The Rain Ripper has an oddly alluring Ryan Gosling verbal rhythm. Daniel O’Meara’s Baldwin Brothers rasp does the same for Mary’s P.O.

Brendan Fletcher brings out the most amusing moments by being overwhelmingly personable in a role that lesser actors would have slept through. Despite all the gore splattered onscreen, it’s Fletcher’s biting of a pickled pig’s tongue that guarantees involuntary reactions, even from viewers with arms folded in harrumphing disinterest.

And there are reasons to get fed up with the fright film familiarity. Mary giving herself a pep talk in a mirror, popping pills to make visions immediately vanish (not how psychiatric meds work), a bloody message written on a window, and an “I thought it was the killer!” accidental murder are only some of the tropes in plentiful play.

Pretty preposterous plotting doesn’t remotely pass a hindsight logic test either. But “Open 24 Hours” always identifies itself as a straightforward slasher, and having that understanding makes it easier to roll with implausibility in the moment.

Writer/director Padraig Reynolds previously helmed 2016’s “The Devil’s Dolls” (review here), a movie I reviewed favorably but couldn’t tell you the first thing about without rereading what I wrote. “Open 24 Hours” at least has distinctiveness where someone will be able to say, “that one where the girl hallucinates her serial killer boyfriend while working overnight at a gas station” and you’ll immediately recognize the reference. That may not be an enthusiastic endorsement, yet the shoe fits. “Open 24 Hours” is an average thriller made better by the high-grade return of quality production value off a low-budget investment.

Review Score: 65