Writer and Director: Greg A Sager
A film about a character alone in his flat and seemingly unable to go outside may seem a little too relevant after the confinement of recent months, but in Open Your Eyes, Writer / Director Greg A. Sager manages to carve out an intriguing if ultimately overwrought psychological thriller in which the hero Jason doesn’t encounter a single living creature for nearly 30 minutes.
Screenwriter Jason has a deadline to meet but struggles to find any inspiration. With a B-movie horror film to write, Jason is soon distracted by the thuds and bumps from his upstairs neighbour who never answers the door. When mysterious, oozing cracks appear in his wall, Jason’s fury abates when he meets the alluring Lisa but just what is he failing to see?
The first 60-minutes of Sager’s film are very engaging as the director builds the tension with only a single character’s point of view and some solid thriller techniques that pay dividends. In the early scenes, Sager uses low camera angles and Rahul Shah’s rumbling minor key score to make everything from preparing a bowl of cereal to Jason cleaning his teeth seem somehow sinister and unnerving. At the point he removes a mysterious roll of carpet the stage is set for some dark happenings.
And for a while Open Your Eyes delivers with long, empty corridors borrowed from The Shining, the occasional flashes of what could be memories or prophesy with Jason’s inability to focus ensuring items disappear and reappear before his eyes. Add to that the loneliness of his lifestyle, the mysterious goings on upstairs and the supernatural feeling that Sager creates, and the first hour of the film slips by.
But its third act just unravels and, as the story turns to the things poor Jason has been missing, it becomes overly sentimental and far more concerned with grandiose points about the nature of loneliness and the need for human contact than really fulfilling its psychological thriller brief. The final 30 minutes stages reveal after reveal, a series of over-egged endings that could be cut by more than half to create a taut, more satisfying and ultimately smaller-scale finale.
Spending most of the film alone, Ry Barrett really keeps the piece together as Jason whose self-confidence is undermined by his writer’s block and the strange occurances in the building. While the writer’s need to have Jason talk to himself, just to have some dialogue, is a little cheesy in places, Barrett’s performance supports the unnerving tone and disorientation his character feels.
Meanwhile, meeting Joanna Saul’s too-good-to-be-true neighbour may seem like an import from an 80s coffee advert but Saul’s performance makes sense in light of the film’s various revelations. Still, there are lot of positives in Open Your Eyes and Sager has designed a convincing starting point for a thriller that, with a single character, certainly holds its own for the first hour; If only the pay-off was quite as good.
Release Date: Out Now