I think we can all agree that the job market is tough. Searching and applying for jobs is so time-consuming and requires so much mental energy that it may as well be a job in and of itself! And while we all know that the application process is daunting, what many don’t consider is that the process is even harder if you have a criminal record, particularly a past felony conviction. The stakes are even higher if you’re currently on parole and are required to find a job as a condition of your release. It’s almost as if the United States’ criminal justice system is more interested in punishing people by incarceration (especially in for-profit prisons) and then guaranteeing recidivism by making it almost impossible to reintegrate into society than it is in rehabilitation and systemic overhauls that dismantle the cycle of poverty-crime-prison.
Anyway, Padraig Reynolds’ latest film OPEN 24 HOURS has a central character who is on parole. Protagonist Mary is hired as a night-shift cashier at a gas station after being released from prison. Petite, unassuming Mary’s crime? She lit her boyfriend on fire. Don’t feel bad though; the guy totally deserved it. He was a serial killer who made her witness his crimes. Once powerless, she eventually found it in herself to maim her deranged lover for his acts of depravity. He lived though, and was incarcerated as well. Now, Mary is left with severe PTSD, along with vivid hallucinations and paranoia.
The action in OPEN 24 HOURS takes place during Mary’s first shift at the gas station. Suffice it to say, things go terribly, terribly wrong. The main issue is that her serial killer ex-boyfriend escapes from prison, tracks her down, and starts to torment her by picking off her friends one by one.
Mary (played by Vanessa Grasse) is a sympathetic lead that we can root for (she’s not a Karla Homolka type), and with her backstory, and the setting of the graveyard shift at a gas station, OPEN 24 HOURS had the potential to be an intensely disturbing and frightening film. Unfortunately, the movie fell into tired slasher beats without breathing any new life into the genre. Although the kill scenes were satisfactorily grisly, the rest of the film missed the mark. I also thought that the movie took place in the 1990s for the first two acts because of the clothing, lack of modern technology, prevalent cigarette smoking, and use of landlines…but then at the eleventh hour, a character uses a smartphone, which was a jarring choice given the overall aesthetic of the film.
OPEN 24 HOURS isn’t a terrible addition to the slasher genre; the film does have its interesting moments, details, and sequences and is performed by a convincing cast of actors. The problem is that there really isn’t anything truly innovative or creative about the overall experience that would help it stand out among the hundreds of slashers that came before it. It’s reminiscent of the types of horror movies my friends and I would watch at sleepovers—simple plot, gory kill scenes, an easy-to-hate villain, and, of course, a final girl.
Vanessa Grasse is supported by Brendan Fletcher, Emily Tennant, Cole Vigue, and Daniel O’Meara. The film was written and directed by Padraig Reynolds. OPEN 24 HOURS is now available to watch on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray from 4Digital Media.