SpectreWatch | Part 4: ‘Open Windows’ and Our Use of Technology for the Wrong Reasons
SpectreWatch is where writer Justin Drabek discusses the horror filmography of SpectreVision, the impact it has had on him, and the cultural relevance of the company’s commitment to making outsider art for the screen. Each film carries with it a unique tone and yet, as SpectreVision continues to produce more, there seems to be a thread that carries throughout the work they choose to release.
Author’s Note: Open Windows is technically not a SpectreVision film, although they were given a credit on it. I learned this fact from one of the founders, Daniel Noah. I wavered between whether or not I would include this in my monthly column. My answer should be clear. Even though it’s technically not a part of their filmography, SpectreVision is credited in the opening sequences of the film, so I want to thank whoever made that decision. Therefore, I have included this film in the SpectreWatch series.
Most of Nacho Vigalondo’s film takes place on various characters’ computer screens while they communicate with each other. In 2014, when the film was released, this concept still felt new and strange, but now with the pandemic and so many meetings happening on zoom calls, well, it feels a little too close to home. I could honestly go without another zoom call in my life. I am grateful for its purpose, and I know this technology has been a lifeline for so many, so I won’t spend too much time talking it down. Still, as everything becomes more and more digital, I think this film highlights some of the negative reasons people have found themselves using the internet.
Open Windows stars Elijah Wood as Nick Chambers, an uber-fan of actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Chambers runs a fan site completely dedicated to Goddard’s every move and every action, including all the times she has gotten nude in her films. It’s voyeurism and stalking but through a computer screen. Even though it’s not the only horror element of the film by far, watching it unfold in what feels like real-time is frightening, to say the least.
Fandom is a strange thing where some people get lost in the identity of someone else. The film asks you to look at this from a unique perspective in a way that has rarely been done in film. As I scroll through endless Twitter accounts dedicated to singular famous people, sometimes the level of unhealthiness really hits hard, and I am left with the image of a man in a hotel room taking screenshots of a woman and then uploading them to his website dedicated to that woman. But the lines get blurred and at a certain point it’s not even about the woman, the actor, the musician, or another human — it’s about the obsession.
Perhaps this film, while not the primary focus, wanted to say something about the obsessive nature we as humans can have with other humans. Of course, the irony is not lost on me that I have a column about one specific film production company and anyone who knows me and has ever read my Twitter account, knows I am a big Stephen King fan, so fandom can be good in some cases. I know a myriad of Twitter accounts dedicated to a single individual are a celebration of the art that moves them, but sometimes the lines of fan and obsession can be crossed and lead to dark things. For example, in Open Windows, Nick jumps at it when he gets offered a chance to spy on Jill even more invasively; he is given access to her phone and cameras everywhere she goes. Eventually, all is revealed, and things are not as they seem. The plot twists and turns like any good thriller. No doubt, Open Windows is fantastic as a gripping and fast-paced whodunit, but a lot of it focuses on the murky parts of technology and how often we can use it for the wrong reasons.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone who spends all of their time in VR (virtual reality), and as someone who hasn’t done it myself, I was enthralled and scared when this person described how someone else in VR got upset at them and stole all of their friends’ identities and personal information. There was a different story about a hacker who stole access to another person’s VR account and began committing crimes in the VR world from that account. Then there was the one about someone who was taken to a room and locked inside of it in VR. None of it made sense to me, but as I thought of this article and specifically this film, I was at a loss for words. VR seemed scarier than the real world, and this person who was telling me all about it was excited to get back into it because it was their “home.” I am sure there are a ton of things that go on in these spaces that are jovial and good for mental health, and that maybe these were just extreme circumstances in one murky corner of VR.
I think the internet is a great tool. We can learn new things and grow almost on a daily level with access to information at our fingertips. Even what you’re reading right now is because of the advances in technology. I appreciate the cautionary tales in films like Open Windows, fun and entertaining films that also dive deeper into the muck and mire of things, and even though it isn’t technically a SpectreVision film, the commitment to provoking the viewer to think, as this film does, makes it a SpectreVision film.
As we stumble forward in this world and as technology continues to advance, no matter how disjointed and disconnected it may feel at times, remember the real world and that the thing or person on the other end of whatever conversations you find yourself is also human, have feelings, and are very real. It can be a scary world both outside and inside the world of the internet.
Just remember: it’s all real. 🩸
Part 5 is coming soon.
Justin Drabek is a contributing writer for Manor Vellum. He also writes for Horror Obsessive and formerly for Killer Horror Critic. He loves cats, and dogs seem to like him…he’s not so sure about them. Follow him on Twitter @Justin_Drabek.
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