In the modern age of near unrestricted access and connectivity, through the marvels of the technological web spun between all of us, bringing us closer to objects of desire that once were seemingly out of reach, a new world of fears have been born. With images of female sexuality so readily available, and information lurking for those who are able and willing to find them, Nacho Vigalondo explores these fears, in a quite frankly dazzling thriller that moves like nothing you’ve ever seen before, as it throws you into the ever twisting layers of it’s world.

Nick Chambers, the webmaster of a site devoted to movie star Jill Goddard has won an online competition to meet her in the flesh. Unfortunately his prize is a hoax; it’s all an elaborate scam set up by mysterious Chord for him to play a part in an audacious plan that has Jill’s life at the centre of it. However, things aren’t always what they appear, and as the plot thickens, the twists come thick and fast.

Vigalondo describes the film as one that ‘became crazy,’ one that started out as a straight thriller, but in an inspired decision, became a film that would change ‘every 10 minutes into something else.’ Indeed, Open Windows is a near schizophrenic narrative, that jumps from one moment of insanity to another; every time you think you have a handle on where its going, it shifts somewhere else, adding a new layer to the mystery. This could have been either distracting or almost over elaborate, however, through the combination of performance, tone and, most importantly, framing technique, is absolutely gripping; embracing the ridiculous to create a thrilling ride that moves like lightning.

Of course, the most distinctive feature of the film is its complex visual design. As with Frightfest entry The Den, the whole film is told through computer screen, predominately Nick’s laptop. Through the myriad windows, and communication apps open upon his screen, the film is captured in a pathway of perspectives. All at once, as many as four or five characters or events are captured in synchrony, creating a depth that is unparalleled. Vigalondo’s camera moves with logic and purpose, able to always find the right window or contrast of windows to enhance the tension and the growing sense of both deception and illusion. It’s a truly unique experience to behold, and while it might not be to everyone’s taste, it is an extremely clever device that taps into our increasingly online lifestyle. It’s logic and direction is an extension of our familiarity and understanding of the computer screen. This is style as comment, and it’s a joy.

Ejijah Wood uses his ‘boy next door’ innocence, and channels the kind of bumbling ‘in too deep’ sensibility of James Stewart or Cary Grant, to bring a modern Hitchcockian wrong man to the screen. Perhaps, the wrong men of De Palma’s films are a better comparison however, as they share Nick’s technological lifestyle (Blow Out) and the inherent voyeurism, the desire to hold the image of the woman (Body Double). Sasha Grey is also particularly accomplished in the smaller, but crucial role of the pursued celebrity. Her very casting is in itself an act of reference, since her previous career as a porn star adds the layers of her character’s position of desired sexual object, and the pervading concerns with the availability of the female body online. Grey channels her sexuality in a brilliant way, playing a character who is defined by her beauty and her bankability as a sex object, and revealing an intense emotional core, displaying a distaste toward that image with extreme verisimilitude.

Open Windows plays a like a high tech Hitchcock thriller, with Elijah Wood excelling at the ‘wrong man,’ as Vigalondo, like De Palma before him, takes the ideas of identity, voyeurism and sexuality, and channels them through new technology. In the process he creates a thrilling multi-platform experience, filled with creativity, concerns with both celebrity and surveillance culture, and most importantly, a crazed dynamism that defines it as bonkers and brilliant.


VERDICT: [rating=4]

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: