Wednesday, July 22, 2020

As Real As A Bludgeoning Can Get: Open 24 Hours (2018)

Open 24 Hours (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Vanessa Grasse, Brendan Fletcher, Cole Vigue

It's been two weeks since her release from a mental hospital and Mary White finds herself still suffering from paranoid hallucinations caused by her PTSD from the crimes she endured. As a mean to remediate herself back to society, she applies as an attendant at Deer Gas Market, a remote Missouri gas station. By luck, she's hired by the station's friendly but wary owner and is to start working later that night.

The shift is bound to be long for Mary as she deals with creepy truck drivers, an overbearing parole officer and the increasingly vivid delusions of murder and corpses. It is soon revealed that Mary's ex-boyfriend, James Lincoln Fields, is the serial killer monikered the Rain Ripper, who abducted and slaughtered a total of 35 women. He forced Mary to watch his kills, knowing she's too afraid for her own life to retaliate but, eventually, Mary had enough and tried ending the nightmare by setting him on fire.

Now disfigured and locked up in the big house, Fields should be nothing more than a dark past for Mary to move on from, but how could she when a creeper starts leaving cryptic messages over the phone and someone in a rain slicker is attacking people with a claw hammer? 

Setting most of the bloodiest acts of bodycounting at the second half of its plot, Open 24 Hours (2018) opted for a direction that focuses first on the frantic decline of the main lead's mental and emotional health as visions upon visions of traumatic horror take a toll on Mary. This plotting fits the kind of tone the movie's aiming for, molding a protagonist with an unreliable state of mind, her projected fear of her murdering former lover returning to end her may or may not be justified as we never really get to tell whether its imagined or not. For all we know, Mary could definitely have snapped at one point in the movie and all of the bludgeoned victims and rain slicker killers she fought was all in her head, and the conclusion this movie went with even toys with this idea. But the film cheekily sneaks in a couple of curveball surprises, both expected and unexpected, to throw us off and I am grateful of that. 

By taking the time to observe Mary's mental state, the movie basically helps itself develop a somewhat intriguing lead for a good while and build upon her a small crowd of likable characters who you hate to die. From a tough parental figure to a beer guzzling bestie to an easy-going co-worker, they get a good share of screen time and written to be earnestly kind people despite their demeanor, but a good slasher isn't a slasher without kills and we need victims. So once we get our reveal and a killer starts wielding a sledgehammer, all formalities are thrown out the window and the film shifts itself to your classic stalk-and-kill flair, rich with bad character decisions and a deceptively strong villain.

Fortunately, utilizing its sleek production value, Open 24 Hours swaggers some striking cinematography and an abundance of practical and special effects for its worth. Though it does take a moment to get to the killings not existing only within the confines of Mary's damaged psyche, the payoff is rewarding enough as the brutal aspects of the kill count meant generous servings of splashy, red and chunked human body parts, often coming after decently fun stalking sequences and chases even if some of them are pretty predictable. If anything, the only drawback that irked me about the movie is how boring the killer can get; yes, they can be savage with the sledgehammer but as a written character? They're the textbook lovestruck slasher killers who just happen to have a fixation with rain, bludgeon weapons, something about souls and nothing else. They're rocking a burn scar, too, but in this day and age, does that even count as impressive trait for a horror movie murderer? 

I can hardly see this movie heading anywhere else but as a fairly decent trip down the podunk slasher trail. Open 24 Hours (2018) certainly got a hand as a psychological thriller and a half-way fun bodycounter, not much to make it gold but still glossy, sharp and ambiguously creepy. Fancy a small slasher that packs a punch? Stop by this movie and give it a ride.

1 female drowned in a tub, brained with a hammer (flashback)
1 female seen with a bleeding head (vision)
1 female found rotting (flashback)
1 female shot on the head
1 male had his head pulped with a sledgehammer
1 female suffocated with a plastic bag
1 male had his throat ripped with a hammer claw, shot with a shotgun
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 9

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