Directed by Patrick Ryder
Starring Aislinn De’Ath, Karen Brace, Robert Dukes, Elizabeth Cassidy, Lorna Waters & Paul Duncan
Short film review by Chris Olson
Gothic undertones in fairytales are commonplace, with children’s tales and folklore regularly dropping hints of life’s evils and nastiness whilst packaging it with heroes, princesses and happily-ever-afters. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs famously made use of a talking mirror to depict an evil queen’s insecurities and burning hatred, providing insight into the foundations of wickedness. Filmmakers Patrick Ryder and Robin Sasson, the minds behind this short film An Open Window, utilise a mirror too. Only this time it hangs not on the wall of a jealous step-mother’s castle that she usurped, but directly with our heroine Emma (Aislinn De’Ath) who picks up this dark object at a local antiques shop without knowing the true nature that hides within.
The movie is set in modern Britain, and pitches its tent firmly in the genre of Chiller. A tense atmosphere of diabolical apprehension is built quickly and maintained throughout, never veering into distracting subplots or pointless exposition. The very nature of horror is unknown evil and the best films keep it that way! De’Ath’s character is allowed plenty of screen time to be wrung out with increasingly alarming developments, such as a trashed flat or a genuinely creepy figure (Paul Duncan) emerging into her living room from the aforementioned mirror, dressed like a ghoulish gimp. Certain sequences involving the two characters are utterly gripping, revelling in a sumptuous sinisterness.
Ryder, credited as director and writer, has delivered some impressive short films in the past (Coffee To Go and Flux to mention a couple), and in An Open Window he proves himself to be a pair of very safe hands. Whereas many filmmakers of the genre attempt to rush their plots through with reckless abandon, seeming to have a desire to fire all their arrows in one sitting, Ryder and Sasson let their movie breathe, in particular when it comes to showing Emma’s descent into chaos. Shots of urban cityscapes and daytime peacefulness are used to juxtapose the nightmarish night time which Emma suffers through at the hands of this reflective wretch.
A couple of scenes really let the film down, in particular in the antique shop where Emma is first given the mirror, and the subsequent scene where she tries to take it back. Both suffered from some wooden dialogue and melodramatic performances. That being said, Emma’s anxious conversation with a police officer (Robert Dukes) added some much needed balance to the proceedings as well as some intrigue.
Like all good fairytales (and horror films) there are some interesting themes at work here. Emma’s unquestioning nature when offered a seemingly priceless antique at a bargain price reveals the danger of innocence, whilst her transformation is a warning of the loss of identity which comes through fear.
Chilling and crafted with poise, An Open Window is made up of some fine filmmaking, but a few cracks here and there reveal a not quite perfect picture.
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