Never Open the Door
I find it very reassuring that at long last appears that one of the most heinous variations of horror is on the decline. The widespread acceptance of, as it is commonly known, ‘torture porn.' is becoming less prevalent in new releases of the genre. Film franchises such as ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ find the type of scary movie with an excess of blood and guts resulting from the mindless infliction of pain and suffering utilized to almost entirely replace the storyline or character development. Thankfully, a small but growing cadre of independent filmmakers has returned to the psychological approach to eliciting terror in the audience. There is a downside to this reemergence of carefully crafted films; people have become overly dependent on aggregate review sites that can sway a preponderance of fans fiercely loyal to the overly explicit violence that has become de rigueur. From the audience members a story that depends upon artistically crafted plot elements, interwoven with character development interval to furthering the story come off as slow and plodding. They have become so accustomed to the immediate gratification of the bloodlust that may have lost the cognitive skills required to piece together the subtle nuances of the storyline and appreciate an example of cinematic artistry that is driven by the narrative. One example of this recently came to me in a group of Blu-ray releases the preview, ‘Never Open the Door’ directed and co-written by an auteur who has the potential to become a major force in the independent films. Previously, he forayed into horror/comedy is very strange, ‘Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.' Movie on the consideration here will require more than the usual dedication for the audience to commit to the story. It may have to be experienced more than once to fully appreciate many of the great place details necessary exactly what is going on. I found it necessary to block out extraneous distractions and watch this film several times. One metric that I use how well I rate a movie is how successful it comes to achieving the vision of the filmmaker.
From the very first frame of this film, there is no doubt as to some of the early influences that affected the directorial style of Mr. Trabucco. The very first impact on his visual installing is undoubtedly one of the original sci-fi/horror anthologies on television, ‘The Twilight Zone.' The eerie, heavily percussive music and diffuse images rolling around the screen immediately bring many of us back series that helped initiate our appreciation of the macabre. Some of the animated images that include elongated shadow figures could easily have come from any one of the myriads of 50s horror films. The most noticeable thing about this movie and the directorial decisions made for its presentation is that the movie is in black and white. Considering this is a Blu-ray release images on the screen are exceptionally crisp and well-defined. The use of black-and-white uses the story with a hyper sense of reality Devon juxtaposed to the almost dreamlike, or rather nightmarish quality what is unfolding before your eyes.
Three millennia couples have gathered in an isolated cabin to share a pleasant holiday meal. This group has been together for a significant portion of their lives, so the social boundaries loosely enforced. Among those in attendance are Luke (Mike Wood) and his pregnant wife Maria (Deborah Venegas). Joining them is another couple, Isaac (Matt Aidan) and his girlfriend Angel (Kristina Page). Finally, there is the single yet always down for sex, Terrance (George Troester), and also single, uptight Tess (Jessica Sonneborn). They have come to this isolated location to caught up with each other.
The six friends have shared many experiences together, so the anticipation for this getaway is relaxed, devoid of any potential stressors. That is until the evening begins to get underway. Maria had just announced the joyful news of her pregnancy but before the celebration gets take hold someone appears at the front door. A stranger (Steven Richards), stumbles through the doorway and collapses in front of the assembled friends. With his dying breath, he utters a dire warning, "Never open the door." As he dies, he spits bloody sputum all over Tess. She understandably freaks out and runs upstairs and after quickly stripping off her clothing jumps into the shower. As the blood washes from her naked body, it looks like a more realistic depiction of the most famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho .' at this point, the story begins to veer off the reality roadway. The phone rings; it is Tess, calling to say she’s delayed but is nearby and will arrive in a few minutes.
The question that immediately drives the story is the perplexing question; if Tess’s car was just pulling into the driveway, who is the woman upstairs in the shower? The realization dawns on them that the situation might just as well be the Real Tess is upstairs and the imposter in the car. These circumstances are right out of what would be what fans of classic TV might expect from an episode of the Twilight Zone. The stories depicted there were at their best when the situations challenge the viewer’s perception making then question everything they are watching. This literary technique referred to as the ‘unreliable narrator.' Little if anything learned from the exposition presented by this character is acceptable as being true. It is one of the most complicated techniques to utilize but when successfully deployed the result can produce incredible tension and a thrilling dénouement. There are some technical missteps present in the implementation of this metrology but considering Mr. Trabucco is still relatively new to writing and directing movies he has done an incredible job.
It is insufficient for the lack of careful exposition to affect the audience. In a truly efficient use of the technique, the contextual ambiguity must extend to the characters for the full potential to be reached. Despite his status as a relatively new filmmaker, Mr. Trabucco has managed to achieve his desired results. The audience is kept as off balance as the characters. Much of this was achieved through the imaginative use of camera angles. He playfully avoids remaining at the 180º line for too long. In conjunction with the cinematographer, Joe Provenzano, the vantage point afforded by the position of the camera is dynamic. It alternates between looking down from above with the vantage point of a fly on the wall to dipping below the midline and off to the side with one of the best implementations of the Dutch angle I have witnessed in a considerable length of time. The quick pacing derived from the agile editing of John Brisco and Chad Ferrin infuses the film with a kinetic life of its own keeping the audience tottering on the edge of their seats. This ensemble cast possesses an amazing chemistry that provides a showcase for some gripping individual performances while attaining a pervasive synergy that carries the film. As previously mentioned this is not a movie to run in the background or casually watch. It demands and servers every iota of attention you can muster bringing your complete attention to the appreciation of this experience. Characters can be fighting for their lives in the bathroom while apparently simultaneously downstairs discussing what to do next. The nonlinear timeline and disjointed narrative combine to create an intriguing experience that you will want to revisit several times.