The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - OPEN 24 HOURS | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - OPEN 24 HOURS

open 24 hours review
While working the graveyard shift at a gas station, a serial killer's ex-girlfriend is terrorised by various parties, real or imagined.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Padraig Reynolds

Starring: Vanessa Grasse, Brendan Fletcher, Emily Tennant, Cole Vigue, Daniel O'Meara

open 24 hours poster

Gas stations have long been a fixture in horror movies. If a group of friends are headed off for a weekend in rural America, you can be sure they'll stop off at a gas station, where more often than not, a creepy attendant will warn them off staying at whatever old cabin in the woods they're headed for. A few movies have even set their entire narrative around a gas station - 2008's Splinter; last year's Burn; the John Carpenter directed 'The Gas Station' segment of the 1993 anthology Body Bags. Writer/director Padraig Reynolds' Open 24 Hours falls into the latter camp.

open 24 hours review

An out of the way gas station is the scene of a night of terror for Mary (Vanessa Grasse). A couple of weeks after being released from prison for setting her serial killer boyfriend, James aka 'The Rain Ripper' (Cole Vigue), on fire, Mary has finally found some employment, convincing the elderly owner of the Deer Gas Station that's she's ready to begin work that night, on the 10pm to 6am graveyard shift. Mary is far from stable however. Though her ex is locked away in prison, Mary is plagued by the idea that he's going to take his revenge on her, and she's prone to freakishly real hallucinations of the crimes she witnessed him commit. She's also receiving threatening phone calls from a victim's mother; though in classic horror fashion, plugging the receiver out doesn't stop these calls from coming through.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Black Phone ]

After being shown the ins and outs of her new job by not-so-employee-of-the-month slacker Bobby (Brendan Fletcher), Mary settles into her first shift. It's not long before she receives a phone call from the same woman, and a trip to a flooded bathroom leads to bloody visions of James attacking her (there's an effective jump scare that nods to Day of the Dead here). But as the shift goes on, the threats to Mary become all the more real, to the point where she struggles to separate her hallucinations from the real dangers the night brings.

open 24 hours review

Open 24 Hours doesn't do itself any favours with the amount of plot details that require a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief on the viewer's part. For a start, there are the legal ramifications around Mary's "crime". If a man is convicted of being a serial killer and sent to prison for his crimes, would his girlfriend really be made to serve time for attempting to kill him? And upon release, wouldn't she be entered into something like the witness protection programme, rather than being returned to her hometown to live alongside the families and friends of her boyfriend's victims? The movie could have told us Mary was sent down for her role as an accomplice through inaction to James's killings, which would have made a lot more sense. Or equally satisfying would have been Mary getting sent to prison, only to be later released when her boyfriend's crimes come to light. And then there's her unlikely employment. She straight up tells the gas station owner that she set her boyfriend on fire, giving him zero context for her actions, yet he willingly allows her to work in a job that gives her access to large quantities of petrol? A lesser detail, but one that niggled with me regardless, is how Mary's best friend (Emily Tennant) is willing to drop her off at the gas station at 10pm every night and collect her at 6am the next morning. What kind of hours does this girl keep?

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Pleasure ]

If you can overlook such unlikely factors, Open 24 Hours is a superficially effective little thriller. It works best in its opening half, as Reynolds slowly amps up the tension by gradually introducing unsettling new elements through a variety of creepy individuals who show up at the gas station (a horny trucker is arguably more disturbing than some of the more explicitly threatening figures we encounter). In some cases, we're never quite sure if what Mary is seeing is real or imagined, and neither is she for that matter. Once the reality of what Mary is up against is revealed, the film becomes less involving as it devolves into a run of the mill stalk and slash thriller.

open 24 hours review

As Mary, Grasse does a fine job of conveying her character's fraught mental state. As someone who ultimately took action against her boyfriend, but only after being a complicit observer to many of his crimes, Mary is certainly an intriguing character. Open 24 Hours never quite sinks its teeth into the potentially dark, probing character study it might have been, as it's more concerned with getting to the eventual bloodshed. Said violence is relatively well mounted, but it's something of an anti-climax after the patiently unnerving build-up that gets us to that point.

Open 24 Hours is on Shudder UK now.