If you've ever caught yourself watching strangers' webcam videos, or cyberstalked a celebrity or perhaps Googled an ex, it becomes clear how easy it is to glean even the most personal information about someone with just a few clicks.
In the new horror film "Open Windows" audiences are introduced to Nick (Elijah Wood), who wins a date with his favorite celebrity, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). When Jill's supposed manager, Chord (Neil Maskell), offers complete Web video access to her every move, Nick can't resist. And what seems like harmless voyeurism escalates into chaos. It all happens on Nick's laptop via chat windows and surveillance footage, which may force audiences to rethink their own computer habits.
This marks the first English-language film from Spanish writer and director Nacho Vigalondo, who chatted with us about the origins and the unusual format of "Open Windows," which is currently available on video-on-demand and hits theaters November 7.
"Some years ago my producers asked me to come up with a movie in which social networks and the language of the Internet would feature heavily," Vigalondo told Crave. "I made a counterproposal: taking the concept to its limit by writing a film that took place entirely on the desktop of a computer, pushing the envelope of the production to make it a really unique adventure. And it's been quite a ride -- writing, directing and postproduction -- a process that, at certain points, we had to make up as we went along."
While many so-called found-footage films, such as "Paranormal Activity" and "The Blair Witch Project," center around poorly shot clips in a house or forest, Vigalondo wanted to make a horror movie that appeared more polished and tech-savvy.
"Being a fan of the found-footage genre, I never intended to make a next step for that kind of movie," Vigalondo told Crave. "I just wanted to find a new way to use old tools like split screen. Found-footage movies tend to be raw and straight, and this movie elicits the opposite of those feelings!"
The movie's trailer shows visuals that rely heavily on pop-up video screens, streaming text, GPS maps and so on, making it seem like a modern take on Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Rear Window," which heavily influenced the tone of "Open Windows."
"My producers came to me and suggested using the Internet with social-media texture and language to approach a paranoid thriller in the vein of 'Rear Window,'" Vigalondo told Crave. "I just pushed the gimmick to the edge, asking them to keep the whole movie inside a computer in real time in return. I also consider Hitchcock as an inescapable influence when making a thriller like this, especially if you are making a movie that deals with voyeurism and point of view."
While the movie focuses more on the dangers of online voyeurism than social-media addiction, "Open Windows" features a kind of real-time terror that unfolds with shocking plot twists that may surprise audiences. Vigalondo attributes much of the film's believability to its actors -- Wood, Grey and Maskell.
"Beyond any formal craziness, beyond the multiplicity of windows, the real-time aspect and the multiple plot twists, it was absolutely necessary that the three actors give themselves over to create something that from a distance would be fully recognizable (hero, victim, masked menace), but when looked at more closely, would reveal itself as something new -- even subversive," Vigalondo told Crave. "They are three uniquely individual stars, and I couldn't be prouder that their extraordinary qualities have fulfilled the personality of this adventure. I couldn't be more grateful to Elijah, Sasha and Neil for agreeing to incarnate the 'triangular protagonist.'"
Vigalondo says his film is about "the opportunity of observing without being observed; about the fear of being exposed every second of our lives; about the right not to be in front of a camera. We follow the action from hundreds of different points of view, but the fundamental stance will be taken when we turn off the computer forever."