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Open Windows

Year: 2014
Production Co: Apaches Entertainment
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell

Open Windows is unlikely to be remembered in the same company as Jaws, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction and The Blair Witch Project, but just like those films were the first entries into movements that have defined cinema (summer blockbusters, the CGI era, the cult aesthetic and found footage respectively), Open Windows has the makings to be a new kind of movie, and it's certainly one we've never seen before.

Starring former porn actress Sasha Grey and former Hobbit Elijah Wood, it tells the story of fanboy Nick (Wood), holed up in a hotel after winning a competition to meet his dream girl, actress Jill (Grey). She's in town to attend a convention panel to promote her latest sci-fi horror flick, and Nick, who owns a fansite dedicated to her, is watching the stream on his laptop in the hotel room prior to their appointed dinner date when he gets a strange phone call.

A stranger with a Cockney twang calling himself Chord (Neil Maskell) says the meeting with Jill has been cancelled, but now something even better seems to be on offer. Over the course of the conversation, Nick comes to realise that Chord isn't a studio or PR flack but a hacker who can tap into Jill's phone, computer and anything else he wants – and stream it straight to Nick's computer for his viewing pleasure.

Chord sets up a high tech system to literally see through the wall into Jill's hotel room on the other side of the building, where Nick has a front row seat to an argument between her and her lover.

Through strange, sudden and mostly contrived plot developments, the boyfriend is alerted to Nick's presence. As he approaches and Nick panics, Chord calmly directs him to the items already in the room to deal with the situation – a taser and rope.

From there, credibility is stretched quite a bit as Chord tricks Nick further into his scheme and the truth is soon revealed. Chord is a psycho, hacker and stalker who intends to kidnap and psycho-sexually torture Jill and make Nick watch the whole thing, making him an accomplice.

Somewhere along the way there's a group of French hackers who appear to help Nick and an often mentioned but never seen uber-hacker who seems to have the power to do anything but travel through time, and it's all stirred up together with Chord's gravelly tones in the background.

The USP is that it's all done and seen by the audience through video and online chat windows, call logs, security camera feeds and text documents on multiple computer screens, the picture zooming and switching from one to the other to let the story unfold through what all these people are doing and seeing online. Quite cleverly, we even follow the action on a computer as Nick drives around the city looking for Jill's attacker.

It's an exciting way to tell a story the way the first successful found footage movie was, but while the aesthetic approach is sound the story is less so. It ends up a pretty convoluted mess as characters are revealed to be someone other than who we (and everyone else) thought, trying to turn a perverted kidnapper thriller into digital armageddon. While there are some cool ideas like using triangulation signals to be able to see a 3D representation of a body in a car boot, the narrative gets a bit too visibly 'constructed' and falls on its face.

Wood is the most experienced actor here and gives the character of Nick everything he needs, but the voice of Chord is little more than moustache-twirling villain and for all Grey's eagerness to embrace the mainstream she has a long way to go as an actress. While her former career certainly stretched several of her muscles, it didn't do much for the acting ones.

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