By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Ry Barrett and Joanna Saul
Written and Directed by Greg A. Sager
One of the first things you’re taught when learning how to craft fiction is to “write what you know.” Which many a hack writer takes to mean, literally make characters that are writers. Since the massive success of The Shining everybody with a typewriter and a drinking problem has tried to recapture the slow descent into madness that is writer’s block, and continues to plague some of us. OPEN YOUR EYES markets itself as The Shining-esque, which I’ll counter that it’s actually more reminiscent of Secret Window (another Stephen King story about a lunatic writer) or even Silent Hill: The Room. However, both comparisons are generous, since OPEN YOUR EYES wants to have 37 jaw dropping twists that it telegraphs too early and delivers too sloppily to be entertaining.
Ry Barret (Still The Water, The Heretics) is Jason Miller, a struggling screenwriter who can’t seem to put words to the page. This is conveyed by long awkward silence where he doesn’t write anything on his laptop, which is twice as boring to see as it was for you to read. He is also having nightmares, drinking too much, and appears to be ignoring signs that he lives with someone. There are two toothbrushes, which could be for his top and bottom teeth, but is more likely for someone that is meant to be sharing his living quarters. He finds a mysterious phone under his couch that he doesn’t recognize but it receives a call from his agent, who abruptly wants a script. That’s how agents work, right? Jason lies and says he’s almost done the script, which he uses as motivation to starting typing like a madman. There’s also a cat stuck in the vents of his building and a growing stain on his apartment wall. You know, trapped in your apartment and losing your mind tropes. Sadly, the ghostly bartender is missing.
Of course, the building manager is missing, but in his search for them, Jason meets a mysterious woman. She shows romantic interest in him despite his having all the personality of a used dryer sheet. They flirt, he unravels more, and one of a hundred twists begins to rear its bright neon head. I’ll let all readers know that what follows are huge spoilers. Jason has a dead wife upstairs rotting. It’s actually kind of an obvious one, so I don’t feel like I’ve robbed you of too much of the film. Don’t worry though, there’s still a minimum of ten more twists.
A twist is a good thing to add to a film, there’s no argument here. But since Saw, every single film has felt pressured to have a twist, and some writers believe the more twists the better. But much like the KFC Double Down before it, OPEN YOUR EYES thinks that just jamming things down your throat is the same as actually crafting a recipe/script. Too many twists muddy the waters thematically. Easily predicted twists seem cheap, lazy and distracting. There isn’t a twist in OPEN YOUR EYES that isn’t done better in a superior movie.
The writing is so stiff and paint-by-numbers that it’s genuinely hard to gauge whether the two leads are doing a good job or not. Their line delivery is passable. They say lines that no human being would realistically say while reacting to increasingly silly scenarios in increasingly unbelievable ways. Which I’ll say is probably the fault of the script. You get a pass on this one, Ry Barrett and Joanna Saul. We all look forward to seeing you in future films to actually see if you can act or not.
OPEN YOUR EYES is far from the worst movie you’ve ever seen, but it definitely won’t be your favorite. It has some genuine watchability, and it’s fun just to see how many ham-fisted surprises it can jam into its discard pile of tropes. Make it a drinking game, one shot every time the script thinks it has a clever twist (EDITOR’S NOTE: Rue Morgue does not endorse this drinking game, you will die.)
OPEN YOUR EYES is available now on VOD, DVD & Blu-ray from Gravitas Ventures.