The night shift might be Mary’s final shift in this psychological thriller.
This year the world current events have deprived us of the five-day horror bonanza that is FrightFest. The shambling hoards of horror lovers, myself included, will not be descending on London’s Leicester Square for thrills, spills, and chills. Whilst plans are in place for an extended Halloween event to sooth the bloodlust, there is another way to get a horror fix; Frightfest Presents, a line of films that played at events past so that you can bring the festival home with you. Open 24 Hours is the latest from the label, and it’s a decent little addition to the catalogue.
Mary is hoping to turn her life around after getting out of prison. Her boyfriend was a notorious serial killer, and his actions have left Mary traumatised and seeing things from the past that haunt her. After Mary gets a new job at a remote gas station for the night shift it seems that things are starting to improve for her, but as the night goes on she questions real from imaginary as her paranoia might not be so unfounded, and she has worse things to worry about than bad customers.
Open 24 Hours takes the concept of the shift from Hell to a whole new level. It’s a moody and grimy piece (you can almost feel the layer of filth over everything in this dilapidated gas station) that flows along nicely and builds up in a way that has you curious about where it’s headed. The gore is infrequent but very brutal when used, so this isn’t one for the squeamish horror fan who prefer events on the creeping scare side of things. Writer and director Padraig Reynolds is no stranger to horror, having previously directed Rites of Spring and The Devil’s Dolls, and knows how to put a story like this together effectively.
Mary’s headspace as a result of everything that has happened to her is an interesting POV to use in a horror story. She’s dealing with multiple layers of guilt as well as self-loathing and it’s interesting to see Vanessa Grasse act that out as the lead performance could easily make the movie fall apart if not quite right. It also means that Open 24 Hours would make a nice little psychological focussed double feature with Last Girl Standing – also a Frightfest Presents title – which essentially deals with the mental toll of being the classic slasher movie Final Girl. The rest of the cast are good if brief in their appearance, particular mention to Brendan Fletcher as Bobby, Mary’s gas station co-worker, but the fleeting nature of other people works in the movie’s favour as this really is Mary’s personal ordeal.
The setup of Mary’s mental instability and hallucinations could also be interesting ground for some real mind games for the film. It can make us question what, if anything, Mary experiences or who she even talks to can be trusted. Unfortunately, outside of a couple of moments it is never really used in a more interesting manner than to facilitate a few scares, which is a little unsatisfying and makes that earlier questioning fruitless. On one hand I’m glad they didn’t go an obvious route with the hallucinations idea, that it would turn out that Mary was killing people under the false assumption that she was fighting off an intruder or something similar, but on the other I wish it had been working up to something more interesting than what occurs.
This is what ultimately leads to the film losing a lot of that initial mystery and momentum and becomes just a standard cat and mouse game in the third act. There’s also an oddly extended chase scene in a nearby junk yard that feels out of place and unnecessary. The meat of the film takes place in the one location, the gas station, which is something I really love in horror as gives a brilliantly claustrophobic feel and particularly, here, makes us as trapped as Mary is so breaking that up causes it to be just that little bit less effective as a whole experience. However, what remains in the film is still very solid and watchable. Open 24 Hours is a well made and at times pretty tense thriller that will let you enjoy a little piece of that Frightfest fun.
FrightFest Presents presents Open 24 Hours on Digital HD from July 20th
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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