I don’t understand why so few slashers don’t mine rich story potential of the final girl surviving the killer. There are only a handful of slasher films that adequately portray the post-traumatic stress of living through these violent attacks, the two that immediately pop into my head Scream 2 and its sequels as well as the recent Last Girl Standing, and somewhere in between those films – deftly balancing the slasher fun of the former and the sobering drama of the latter is Open 24 Hours, a grisly, waterlogged throwback slasher that relishes in gnashing its sharp, bloody teeth.
Open 24 Hours concerns Mary (Vanessa Grasse), a young woman fresh off a stint behind bars, having set her boyfriend on fire. Why did she do that, you ask? Because he was a hammer-wielding serial killer known as The Rain Ripper, his particular murderous habit triggered by bouts of rainfall. On the surface, she seems to be doing alright, but she’s struggling with hallucinations and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the urging of her cantankerous parole officer, she gets a job jockeying the register at a desolate highway gas station during the night shift. As she settles in for her first night at work, she starts getting mysterious calls, the feeling that someone is sneaking around and watching her and outside, it’s starting to rain…
First off, the gas station is a great location for a horror film, and a believable one at that. You get the impression that this is a real-world location that you’d stop off for gas and snacks at while trawling the backroads of America. It’s claustrophobic at times, but a sprawling enough property to keep things fresh, so you’re not bored seeing the same five rooms over and over again. It’s well-designed too, with generic snacks on the shelves, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that production designer was part of the international crew because they perfectly nailed the US gas station aesthetic, complete with disgusting bathrooms. The constant downpour of rain outside and the smoky, hazy interiors of the station coupled together gives us a frame that’s dripping with doom and gloom throughout the film’s runtime.
Writer/director Padraig Reynolds keeps things moving along swiftly through the first act of Open 24 Hours, avoiding the problems that most slasher films fall into, namely ones that have a single location by giving us an engaging protagonist in Mary, played by the enigmatic Grasse. We buy her isolation, her mental trauma so well that by the time the killer appears on scene, we’re able to fully and capably understand not only the stakes of survival, but how the past relationship between her and the killer has affected her present being. The rest of the cast fairs admirably from Daniel O’Meara as her gruff parole officer Tom, whose rough exterior covers a person who does seem to care that Mary pulls through, or Brendan Fletcher as Bobby who charms from the first minute he’s onscreen and has a delicate, low-key charisma with Grasse in the scene where she opens up to him.
Because it’s a small, intimate film, there’s not a large body count, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on the gore. The violence is bone-crunching and shocking with its unexpectedness. There’s a nasty attack where the killer hooks the claw of the hammer right into someone’s cheek, a plastic bag suffocation, a sledgehammer smashing someone’s head into a pulp and an impalement onto the antlers of a deer.
Since the movie can’t out and out have a murder spree for ninety plus minutes, Reynolds sprinkles in scenes of frightening hallucinations: people on fire, blood pouring out of toilets, bodies coming back to life, that keep things spiced up, but they unfortunately rely on the loud score stingers to startle you far too much. It’s scary when the camera pans over to reveal the killer standing behind Mary, but the music announcing that “oh no, he’s right there!” is a little redundant. Subtlety is often the best way to approach things sometimes. It’s often the low-key stuff that scares me more, like the creepy phone calls that Mary gets – it’s just the same phrase repeated over and over again, but it gave me the willies. Don’t get me wrong, the scares are great and unexpected, I just think the shock music mutes their effectiveness. I also didn’t care for the cold open all that much, because it ruins the impact of a character that we’re actually led to believe might survive the film. It could be lopped off and the film wouldn’t miss a beat. I do wish the killer had a bit of a unique look to them, but it’s okay because they don’t hold off the killer’s identity for too long anyhow.
Open 24 Hours sets itself apart from the usual DTV dreck by giving you an engaging cast, some gruesome practical kills, a fantastic location and a character that you can actually sympathize with. It’s a good one to kick back with, enjoy some beers and have some fun.
Movie Score: 4.5/5
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