When it comes to review writing, I typically don’t struggle. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, I know my reviews aren’t the most expert, well-articulated thoughts in town – but that’s the point. I pride myself on writing digestible, unpretentious, and honest opinions and recommendations. Those thoughts come quick, and are instantaneous. Usually.
And here I am, sitting in the Highball bar with a few hours to kill, a stack of reviews to write, and I’m completely stuck. I’m stuck on Open 24 Hours. Not because it was terrible, not because I’m having trouble thinking of polite ways to tear it a new one – but because it was just okay.
The acting was adequate. The story was decent. The kills were sometimes nifty. I know films don’t collect dust on Netflix, or Shudder, or whatever inevitable streaming platform will be destined to pick this one up – but after everyone watches it once.. it might.
Padraig Reynolds’ Open 24 Hours follows Mary (Vanessa Grasse), fresh-faced and fresh out of prison for attempted murdering of her not-attempted murderer boyfriend. (That’s a confusing sentence, but I’m keeping it.) Through a series of traumatic flashbacks and hallucinations, we watch how Mary discovered her steady was operating as a serial killer, killing girls for some undisclosed reason. Upon stumbling across his makeshift graveyard in the basement, her BF turns abusive-BF, forcing her to watch as he continues his reign of terror, kidnapping and torturing young ladies.
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And though we spend a lot of the film’s runtime understanding Mary’s past; her hindrances, and her mental state – we never get a single glimpse into the mind of the killer. What was their relationship like before? Was he loving, caring? Were they happy? What traits did he have that enabled him to successfully live a double life for so long? What separates him from every other joe-blo with a knife, a slicker, and a bubbling-over urge for revenge? (That sounds like a rarity – but in a horror movie, trust me – it’s not.)
But there is no time for that unnecessary plot stuff – Mary’s out, no worse for wear (apart from the hallucinations), and ready to start her first shift at Deer Gas – a rundown isolated gas bar and convenience store that is (obvs) – Open 24 Hours.
After a quick debriefing from genre regular Brendan Fletcher as do-gooder gas attendant Bobby – mainly showing her which key is for which toilet – she’s about to spend a boring, quiet night in-front of a cash register and left of some grungy looking deviled eggs. Things take a turn (as they do) after she begins getting some ding-dong-ditches telephone style, and the silhouette of a figure in a hooded slicker can be seen lurking instragrammably close to the neon gas bar lights. I think we might be in a horror movie, guys.
Unfortunately, the standard setup only shifts up to an equally lackluster climax. The film spins its wheels figuring out just what it wants to be. Slasher? Commentary on abuse? Mystery/thriller? It feels like Open 24 Hours is winging it as Mary runs up and down gas station aisles, not really sure what, if anything, is chasing her. When we finally gather some direction, we spend a lot of time corralling our main players to the gas station washroom, (after taking a brief detour to address our red herring, of course). Once the film begins to get lethal, horror audiences will be out of patience hunting for originality.
“Once the film begins to get lethal, horror audiences will be out of patience hunting for originality.”
I will say that fans of nineties slashers will see brief glimmers of light – the film’s protagonist has an innocence and a gusto that can best be compared to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Julie in I Know What You Did Last Summer – plus, once you factor in the slicker we’re clearly in homage territory. I’ll also throw in some Urban Legends vibes for good measure.
As for Deer Gas – a gas station makes a nice, isolating setting for a horror movie – but other than some blood bubbling over a toilet that’s scarier to imagine your butt touching sans blood – it doesn’t really add much to the story. Our killer could kill anywhere – though I guess he does seem to have a thing for bathrooms. Luckily, Deer Gas has a way over-sized one. Like, Saw big.
Open 24 Hours is adequate. The story isn’t disjointed, confusing, or hard to follow. The characters are motivated (even without the “by what”), well acted, and they mostly coherently lead you from Act I to III. But when all is said and done, this Gas Bar is just a pit stop in the search for something better.
Open 24 Hours celebrated its North American Premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantastic Fest coverage here!