If you’ve seen one too many movies with Jason, Freddy, or Michael, may I suggest giving the Rain Ripper a shot? He’s the antagonist in the smart, tense film Open 24 Hours, which gives the classic stalker genre a personal touch.
As the title suggests, Open 24 Hours is set largely at an all-night convenience store; it’s where Mary (Vanessa Grasse), an ex-con who just got out of jail for setting her boyfriend on fire, has a new job. The circumstances for that crime are fairly involved and spoilery, but suffice to say, Mary isn’t ok. She sees things, including some of the horrors of her past, and as she starts her first graveyard shift at the store, she (and the audience) will constantly be questioning whether what she’s experiencing is real.
Written and directed by Padraig Reynolds, the film, feels at first like an intimate character story about a woman dealing with post-traumatic stress. However, the more we learn about Mary’s backstory and condition, the more we realise not everything she’s seeing or thinking is actually fake, which sets the stage for an increasingly intense narrative.
Much of that tension is built because Open 24 Hours takes place mostly in a single location, which Reynolds films to maximum effect. Rarely have gas bells, pig tongues, beer bottles, or bathroom toilets been explored like they are here. A feeling permeates the film that at any moment, anything is possible. That’s also because Mary is a truly layered and interesting hero. She’s got some issues, of course, but her history is fascinating and sad—and the way Grasse portrays her mental issues is quite remarkable.
And, of course, Mary’s story intersects quite intricately with the Rain Ripper, a brutal serial killer who—spoiler alert—is back on the loose. I won’t explain exactly how the two characters are connected, but he’s a very striking, scary presence who brings with him some gory, gross kills as he stalks Mary and the other characters
The biggest knock against Open 24 Hours is that Reynolds builds almost too much tension. Because the film spends so much time digging into Mary’s backstory, the side characters, the store, and more, things can get a little static at points and it feels like it’s never going to stop. Eventually, the payoff is totally worth it; everything Mary and the characters go through in the end works that much better because of the detailed characterization and spatial exploration.
Open 24 Hours isn’t quite the glitzy stalker movie of all those name brands alluded to before, but it takes that genre and gives it a smart twist. By making the hero’s backstory so complex, it makes the film more of a character study than a true stalker horror film, which is very welcome indeed.
Open 24 Hours had its North American premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018 and does not have an Australian release date yet.