“Unfriended” is fun, but don’t forget “Open Windows” did it first

Open Windows Poster featuring Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey

Courtesy Cinedigm

Don’t get me wrong. I liked “Unfriended.” But credit where credit is due.

Writer/ director Nacho Vigalondo made the film “Open Windows” last year. It treads similar ground in the conceit of using a computer monitor as the canvas for telling the story.

The movie stars Elijah Wood as Nick, winner of a contest to meet his dream movie star Jill (Sasha Grey — yes, THAT Sasha Grey).

When Jill refuses to honor her end of the contest, Nick gets an internet phone call from a man named Chord. He’ll help Nick spy on Jill via the internet — even though the meet is off, Chord thinks Jill owes Nick some sort of entertainment.

What starts as a voyeuristic game turns into something else entirely as Chord manipulates Nick into criminal acts.

Things get more mysterious when three mysterious men contact Nick, thinking he’s someone called Nevada. Someone… sinister.

Like “Unfriended,” the story of “Open Windows”  unfolds via a video screen for the entire movie. However, instead of relying heavily on just Skype, Nick and Chord also use security cameras, planted camcorders and Jill’s own cellphone to track all the action.

The paranoia of Big Brother hits hard in this one.

We also get the terror of invasion of privacy, a very relevant fear in today’s cyber-age of NSA spying, ever-present cameras and internet trolls with vulgar threats.

Where “Open Windows” varies from “Unfriended” is that Vigalondo zooms in and out of various areas of Nick’s screen, forcing the audience to focus on what he wants you to focus on instead of just showing the screen and letting the audience decide what’s important.

I appreciate the help, but all it does is get annoying as you’re looking at one thing and all of a sudden your attention gets ripped away to something else.

Vigalondo also gives us wider shots of the action, so we occasionally lapse into that familiar movie feel before getting snapped back to a bunch of, well, open windows.

Hats off to Vigalondo for orchestrating such a technologically tricky experience. Whether you’re down for the story or not, have to give the man credit for attempting a “Rear Window” for the digital age.

Grey is convincing as the starlet who suddenly finds herself exploited — and worse. You can actually feel her angst, particularly during a scene in which she interacts with a Chord-coerced Nick via webcam.

Wood, who seems attracted to odd projects (check him out in the remake of “Maniac,” also on Netflix), carries his water well as Nick. The character is rather gullible to fall into Chord’s trap, but Wood sells it.

So is this a perfect movie? Heck no. Sometimes the technique works, sometimes it doesn’t. But if you’re into a different style of filmmaking that relies on 21st century sensibilities and is not some found footage jitter-fest, “Open Windows” is definitely one to check out.

Here’s the trailer. You can catch the entire movie on Netflix.

BTW – here’s my review of “Unfriended.”

Leave a Reply