Nacho Vigalondo’s high stakes thriller Open Windows, which was recently released on VOD, starts off with Elijah Wood’s Nick Chambers getting situated in a hotel room, ready for a dinner with his favorite movie star, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). The dinner gets cancelled, and what at first looks like a strange game of cat and mouse – one that cleverly takes place almost entirely on a computer screen – soon turns into a dark and foreboding look at what we’re usually too afraid to admit: the Internet and technology can be extremely dangerous, depending on who is using them.
A largely unseen villain named Cord forces Nick to cyberstalk Jill in real time, using his technical prowess to tap into any and all cameras and electronics in the area. While everyone’s lives are generally in danger throughout the film, one of Cord’s major threats is making available to the public a video of a partially nude Jill, using a website with a countdown clock on it. I had the pleasure of talking to both Wood and Vigalondo about Open Windows just as Emma Watson’s nude photo leak website was revealed to be a hoax. When asked how they felt about the situation, Wood shared his views on the evolution of Internet behavior.
I think it’s getting to a point where it’s starting to go beyond the online … the sort of safety that provides, and we’re starting to see more direct real-world consequences for the things that people do online, and I think that that’s a good thing in the sense that we’re having a much larger conversation now about what we do online and how it can actually affect people in real life. "
Now, it’s true that most of the morally degraded asshats on the Internet aren’t out on the streets threatening a celebrity’s privacy and forcing them into awful situations, but reading through comment sections and certain message boards can put one in a really dour state of mind concerning humanity’s fate. And even though the circumstances in Open Windows are intentionally hyper-dramatic, the film still shows us that online safety could one day require a lot more faith than the undeniable assertion that it exists. Unfortunately, women are almost always going to be victimized more than men. It’s sadly not that shocking how bad GamerGate got, and Wood also spoke of that as a vaguely optimistic omen that things could change.
The thing about that particular situation that fascinates me is if people were actually handling themselves in human, good ways, there could actually just be a discourse, because that’s what it should be; a discourse about what they feel about feminism and how that might affect gamers’ pride. Talk about it, discuss it, have interactions. However, what it actually turns into are death threats and race threats and the worst elements of humanity that literally are forcing some of these women to hire security and contact the FBI; so because it’s getting to that level, I feel like it’s actually a good thing that it’s going to those extremes because I hope it will ultimately make people look at the way they conduct themselves online and what those consequences can actually be."
Open Windows also plays with the concept of identity both on- and offline, but talking about that would be delving into the film’s secrets. For what it’s worth, Vigalondo didn’t set out to make Open Windows mirror society at large, and Wood says that the point "is not to make a statement about the way we conduct ourselves online, but rather using those elements to feel like familiar thriller tropes." Here’s how the director explained his anti-motivation.
The thing is, I really wasn’t concerned about all these things…I never wanted to make a cautionary tale…I wasn’t going to deal with all these things to start a discussion or be part of a discussion. I never wanted to."
Sometimes prescience happens when you least expect it to, and this is definitely one of those instances. Find Open Windows out on VOD now, with a limited theatrical run starting November 7.