“Open Windows” is among the very first feature-length films to unfold entirely on a computer screen. Directed by Spanish “Timecrimes” helmer Nacho Vigalondo, the result, a tech-savvy thriller full of genre movie pleasures, yields one nerve ratcheting set piece after another without a single obvious cut.
Elijah Wood plays a genre movie buff who, rejected by the leading actress (appropriately played by Sasha Grey) who promised him a private post-film festival meet-and-greet, is inveigled by an anonymous stranger into performing a series of insane, life-threatening tasks — all under the dubious agreement of meeting his dream girl.
This tightly wrought high-concept scarer popped up at South by Southwest in the Spring, made its way to Canada’s Fantasia Fest and eventually landed at Fantastic Fest, where I caught “Open Windows” and sat down with director Vigalondo and star Wood, whose own company SpectreVision is busily unleashing a slate of excellent genre titles. (Anne Thompson’s Sundance Q&A with the SpectreVision founders here.)
“Open Windows” is now on VOD, ahead of its theatrical release via Cinedigm on November 7.
Ryan Lattanzio: This is a nifty
concept for a movie, which takes the Brian De Palma split screen to a whole new
level. What was the idea there?
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Nacho Vigalondo: I was approached with the idea of making
a movie, a thriller, in which the internet haunts the person onscreen. For example, do you remember the movie “Closer” when all of a
sudden the traditional narrative is stoppedand you saw all those internet
messages onscreen? They offered me that, basically. I liked it as a thriller.
What I gave them back was the idea of taking things to the edge, and showing a
whole movie in front of a computer screen, in real time, without a single
cut, this stream of images floating around the computer screen. So, they
approached me with something interesting, and I give them back something
Elijah Wood: When we first met in 2010, I had been a fan of his work with “Timecrimes.” And, we met at
[Fantastic Fest] in 2010. And, that idea, I think, was already in the process. I remember
hearing, “Oh, he’s going to make a movie…he’s going to make a film, that
takes place completely on a computer screen.” Which seemed like such an
awesome idea, and also ambitious and crazy. And, it wasn’t until 2012 that it
actually all kind of came together.
Elijah, the claustrophobia of
“Open Windows” reminded me of “Grand Piano,” which you were also in, where somebody else is dictating orders to another person, and they’re very compliant.
And, you’re not quite sure why at first. What were the
challenging aspects to filmmaking here?
Wood: We never had the luxury of interaction with other actors, except for
rare instances where we were all sharing the screen. So, it was an incredibly
solitary experience, where most of our experience making the film was directed
towards the camera, which was supposed to be a computer
screen, communicating with people that we weren’t actually seeing.
Vigalondo: Shooting was very difficult for us. Instead of enjoying the psychological aspects of the
situation, the dramatic aspects of the situation, you have to impose so many
specific colors, in terms of your eyes, position, everything. That’s one
thing that I really appreciate: the effort into making a role in which you are,
most of the time, staring at the camera. Because, you’re not controlling,
exactly. Where in other cases, you don’t know that the characters are alone.
Also the fact that you’re interacting with the
camera is, I’m pretty sure, horrible for an actor.
I would imagine editing was an
extraordinary complication, also.
Vigalondo: It was an adventure, because we not only had to edit the
movie but we had to create a way of editing. How does a movie like this get
made? We don’t know. We didn’t have a precedent. How to deal with the amount of information, the amount
of data, the amount of images. What is the proper program in order to put all
these windows together, so that we can move the actual camera?
Wood: We were literally creating it.
Vigalondo: Yea, we created the whole thing.
So what is interesting about genre
filmmaking to you two? You [Woods] have SpectreVision and you [Vigalondo] are
an established genre filmmaker already.
Vigalondo: I want to make movies. The fact that you prefer genre
stuff, rather than non-genre stuff, is something that is in your DNA.
Wood: There aren’t as many restrictions on genre films. Genre
is a really wide field that encapsulates a lot of different kinds of films. One of the distinctions that makes
it so interesting is there are less restrictions. You can have so many more
ideas, cinematically and in terms of storytelling, that can apply that may not
apply if it’s outside of the world of genre.
Vigalondo: For me, the point of making movies
is making something that at some point can be new, or surprising for people.
And, I think genre territory is perfect for that. It’s a perfect
place for trying to come up with something that is unexpected or
surprising. You can make the perfect
love-triangle and go to the Oscars. And, maybe that movie is beautiful, but there is nothing, let’s say, novel about it. It
can be the perfect movie. But, everything you see there is the tradition. You
may be shooting a different movie, but it’s traditional at the end of the day.
I think that a good genre movie is always trying to push things.
Elijah, what do you have coming up at SpectreVision?
EW: We have “Cooties” coming out, probably early
next year. We have “Girl Walks Alone at Night,” which
comes out in October. We just got production on
a movie called,”The Boy,” which is the first in a planned trilogy of
films about, essentially, the growth of a young boy into a man and basically watching the birth of a psychopath.
So “Boyhood” by way
of a psychopath.
Wood: That’s the hope. It was based on a short that played at Sundance called “Henley,” which
is a really contained, small short that just watches a young boy who
is an only child of a guy who runs a roadside motel. It’s a quiet film. But it
watches this boy sort of in isolation, dealing with harming animals and how it
starts out kind of insidiously but then he’s taking more of an active role in
it. And, we were so in love with it that we paired up with the filmmakers. We want to turn this into three films. I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of
serial killers and, ultimately, what makes these people tick. There are so many
things in early childhood that are common denominators amongst those sort of
people. We just finished that film, as well. And, then we’re about to start a film
with Jorge Michel Grau called “Curse the Darkness.”
SpectreVision seems to be avoiding cliches very well. Talk about what kind of projects interest you.
Wood: If it feels like it’s been done before and it’s a well that people go to regularly,
it’s not as interesting. We’re always looking to do something that’s slightly
different. I’m sure [Vigalondo] feels the same way. As a filmmaker, you’re
constantly trying to push yourself to do something that’s not been done before.
Vigalondo: And, not because you want to surprise the audiences, you
want to surprise yourself. Be alive for the whole process. That is the adventure of film: where am I going to discover a new island,
at this moment?