This past Friday the 13th, audiences caught a glimpse of a trailer to Nacho Vigalondo’s latest film, Open Windows. The film stars Would You Rather’s Sasha Grey and Maniac star Elijah Wood, and is set to be Vigalondo’s first English language feature film. In the film, Wood plays a man obsessed with a famous actress and uses an online service to spy on her. However, he inadvertently gets embroiled in what appears to be some sort of a kidnapping. Grey is held in captivity and Wood must do whatever he can to rescue her from whoever entrapped him into this lose-lose scenario. The closeted voyeur has to act, exposing his identity to the celebrity girl of his dreams and, on top of all that, he has to serve some seemingly omniscient creepy disembodied webcast voice.
The film holds the promise of a thrill ride while presenting a cautionary tale about the dangers of stalking, the cult of the celebrity and voyeurism. What the trailer suggests is a film with a gimmick: what if a whole movie was done completely off someone’s computer screen? However, knowing Vigolando, there must be more to the picture.
Those unfamiliar with Nacho Vigalondo’s filmwork should acknowledge that the Spanish filmmaker received several awards as well as both a Best Short Film Award nomination at the European Film Awards and an Academy Award nomination for his 2003 short film, 7:35 de la Mañana, and has a rabid fan base following his prolific sci-fi/horror hybrid, Timecrimes. His last feature film, Extraterrestrial, faced mixed reviews as some critics felt that blending the rom-com dramady with a peripheral alien invasion was a daring move that did not live up to its expectations. Sadly, dry and understated humor never gets the respect it deserves. But also found within Extraterrestrial is a trace of Vigalondo’s use of voyeurism when the main characters’ are spied on by their neighbor, and Vigalondo showed his strength in simplicity with his impressive short in The ABC’s of Death. So perhaps further meditation on this concept through the use of the computer screen would be a worthwhile exercise. Right? Wouldn’t it?
One recalls all the online buzz around the poignant Canadian short from the Toronto International Film Festival, Noah. The perfectly succinct and spellbindingly accurately 17 minute film chronicles the frivolity and banality of modern relationships through several online mediums, uch as Facebook, Skype, Chatroulette, et al. What the creators Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg were able to accomplish with that film was to speak to a kind of voyeurism, which depending on who you ask, may present a more ‘frightening’ portrait of modern life than perhaps anything a conventional dramatization could muster. It also draws comparisons to this year’s TIFF provocateur, Antisocial, which draws the question of what you can believe off of the internet from widespread information change.
What is telling about Noah’s use of the computer screen is that it is integral to the story. What’s more is that the film is quite short. Open Windows use of the technique seems more problematic, and dare I say, schmatta. Rather than a simple quiet filmmaking subtly bold statements about the conditions of ‘reality’ within the online sphere, what the Open Windows trailer offers is a look at low-budget action scenes and Sasha Grey undressing herself. Which is more existentially disconcerting remains to be seen… In any case, critics will be thoroughly interested in the kinds of choices Vigalondo will make in his English language debut.
For Sasha Grey, the film represents yet another foray for into the twisted realm of the Horror/Psych Thriller cinemascape. In 2012’s Would You Rather Sasha Grey starred as a participant in a demented survival of the fittest kill-or-be-killed competition run by an sadistic aristocrat, played by the charmingly regal Jeffery Combs. The latter film largely feels like Clue meets Hostel with some genuinely squeamish moments.
Known for taking on unconventional roles, Elijah Wood’s performance alone is sure to make Open Windows worth checking out, even if only to see what he could do with it. Following last years turn in the remake of Maniac, as well as his upcoming performance in the critical darling Grand Piano, Wood is quickly becoming one of the most dependable lead actors in the genre. Hopefully, Wood, Grey and Vigalondo will take this troublesome concept and bring something raw and scary rather than something underdeveloped. We’ll learn for ourselves later this fall, when the film premieres in select theaters and VOD. For more on Open Windows, Sasha Grey and Elijah Wood, check back here to DiaboliqueMagazine.com.