Overview: A jilted fan is pulled into a a world of cat-and-mouse danger after accepting an invitation to spy on his favorite actress via computer. 2014; Cinedigm; Rated R; 100 Minutes.
Found Footage: There are two genres of movie that annoy me whenever I see them. One is found footage and the other is movies where computers are scary and frantic typing equals hacking. This movie is sort of both. All of the action takes place on a computer and we are guided from window to window to watch the action. Lengthy skype calls mean we can see the actors at all times and there are security camera feeds, hacked phone cameras, web browsers, live video feeds, and dash cams (for car chases.) Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate innovation. Found footage, when done well, can be excellent (see Blair Witch Project or the original REC), however it can also be a pointless distraction (see Cloverfield or Chronicle…or rather don’t see them.) This movie is very much the latter. Director Nacho Vigalondo, whose earlier movie Timecrimes is excellent, hurts his movie with this gimmick because it’s really silly. At no point was I watching this movie thinking, wow, having everything happening on a computer screen is a great idea that in no way undermines the tension and believability of this movie. No, I spent the whole movie trying to work out which webcam/security camera/phone camera/website/dash cam I was seeing through and why.
Scary Computers: The other silly thing in this movie is that it subscribes to the ancient movie belief that computers are magic. Movies driven by computer hacking plots tend to be shitty (Die Hard 4, Swordfish, The Net, that bit at the end of Jurassic Park with the weird flying interface) and very few times are they effective (Sneakers…Love me some Sneakers). In Open Windows hacking/frantic typing will allow you to work out a hotel room number by pointing a camera out of a window at the other room’s window, access any camera, put a virus onto a third of the world’s computers, track down handheld cameras that aren’t turned on, remotely torture someone, remotely release smoke bombs in a hotel room, control a dash cam that inexplicably gives directions with helpful flashing arrows that appear in the video feed, and much, much more.
Overall: Open Windows is about Nick, played by Elijah Wood, a super fan of an actress played by Sasha Grey. He travels to Austin believing that he won a dinner with Grey, only to find himself embroiled in a bigger plot involving a faceless villain (he’s wearing a mask), three inept French hackers, and…oh who cares? Elijah Wood, who I have a lot of love for, does his best as a panicked guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the movie’s general conceit and fear of computers undercuts any tension the movie tries to create. Unfortunately, it’s not so bad it’s funny. It’s just bad.