For some, packing their shit and moving to the other side of the country is the best way to get a fresh start. For others, it's simply starting a new job and slowly getting back out into the world. In Padraig Reynolds' horror flick OPEN 24 HOURS, the main character Mary is willing to take any job, she just wants to put her past behind her and start over. But when she starts her new job working the graveyard shift at a 24 hour gas station in the middle of nowhere, she never would have guessed that paranoia would bring her serial killer ex-boyfriend right there into the store with her... it is just her paranoia, right?! Reynolds wrote and directed this unsettling and disturbing film that has been making its rounds in the film festival circuit for the last two years, and just last week it finally hit streaming here in the US and man oh man, are horror fans in for a treat with this one. While the film starts off slow and takes a while to really build itself into something, once it kicks off there's no relenting; Open 24 Hours goes places you know it's going to go and don't want it to, it's going to build and build and build on the tension in the atmosphere to set this really uncomfortable tone and when it finally breaks, it breaks in the most violent and bloody of ways. It's a fucking brilliant film if you're willing to let it build on itself and work its way up to what it needs to; I promise you that if you're patient enough to let it play out, the payoff is well-worth the time you put into the film. Reynolds did an excellent job putting together the right cast and the right location to really bring this film to the perfect atmosphere the film requires, and honestly, the movie exceeded my expectations by a mile. Open 24 Hours makes for a great quarantine date-night in film for late at night when the house is quiet; you'll find Mary's gut wrenching screams will shake you to your core and her psycho ex-boyfriend will haunt not just her, but you as well.
Open 24 Hours has a pretty basic plot that, assisted by a great cast and location, sets the stage for a truly great horror. Mary (Vanessa Grasse) is fresh out of jail after serving time for her dark past. Her ex-boyfriend James (Cole Vigue) killed a ton of people and made Mary watch as he did his dirty work. Fed up with this miserable life, Mary set James on fire before they were both arrested. Mary's free now, and she just wants to move on from the incident so she takes her parole officers advice and she gets a job working the overnight shift at an isolated gas station. Her paranoia and delusions begin to play tricks on her as her shift goes on, and she truly has the first night on the job from hell. Without giving too much away, let me just say that Mary's awful past catches up with her in unimaginable ways and she has to fight for her life... or is it all in her head?! Only one way to find out... in OPEN 24 HOURS! [The following half of the review contains spoilers; reader discretion is advised.]
First off, Mary's backstory is fucked; her psycho ex-boyfriend made her watch as he sliced and diced 35 people up and he tried to convinces her that she likes watching people die. James is nothing but pure fucking evil, and he doesn't appear to have any motive to kill, he just enjoys it. But as you can tell from the trailer, that part of her life will always have a hold on her as she battles here paranoia. As the films first half slowly works its way to the good stuff, you'll find yourself really liking Mary's character and her desire to just live a normal life again. But the scenes where her paranoia starts to mess with her will start to mess with you too. The effects are exceptionally well done and have enough craziness in them to make you say "oh damn" as they play out. But just wait... as the films second half begins and the bloody fun really begins to take over, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat as the film goes from cute girl paranoid in a gas station to blood, blood, blood and guts everywhere. There's some undeniably awesome, brutal shots in the movie that even took me by surprised and had me wondering where the hell it all came from. Like I said earlier, if blood is what you want, blood is what you'll get in the second half of the movie.
While the killer ex-boyfriend James and her new coworker Bobby (Brendan Fletcher) make for two badass characters, there's no denying that Grasse absolutely steals the show with her performance as Mary. We've seen so many movies over the years with clearly faked screams of horror, but Grasse did an unbelievable job at personifying her terror throughout the movie. From her panicked paranoia episodes to her escapes from her psycho ex to her overcoming his crazy ass, Grasse maintains this wicked performance the entire movie using her facial expressions that feel so real and genuine that you'd believe the terror actually happened in front of Grasse for real. I absolutely loved the casting for the movie and shot up when I saw Fletcher (who I recognized from the insane Rampage series) was in it, and the madman James has this horrifying burn victim look and this haunting look on his face when he looks at Mary that will make anybody uncomfortable. The casting is definitely a part of the reason this film plays out so well, and is so effective in setting that miserable, dreadful tone that will haunt you until the blood begins to flow.
Like I said, if you're still locked up in your apartment looking for something a little different and that takes a chance on making you very uncomfortable, do yourself a favor and give Open 24 Hours a chance. I didn't know going into the movie how emotionally involved I'd be in it, but once that atmosphere is built it sucks you right in and doesn't let you go until shit really hits the fan. Totally worth both your time and money - check it out!