Directed by: Padraig Reynolds. Starring: Vanessa Grasse, Brendan Fletcher, Emily Tennant. Released: August 18, 2020 (in U.S; July 20, 2020 in U.K.). Runtime: 1h 42 min.
This review contains some spoilers. Also, if you missed my last post, I interviewed the writer/director of this film, Padraig Reynolds, and that interview can be found here.
Mary (Vanessa Grasse) is recently out on parole and gets a job as on the night shift at a gas station called Deer Gas Market. Mary’s crime is setting her serial killer boyfriend on fire, and that whole relationship has made her, as her case file says, “paranoid and delusional” suffering from hallucinations. Naturally, since she’s on the night shift, she’s in for an ordeal.
Padraig Reynolds, writer and director of Open 24 Hours, is able to create a compelling final girl with Mary, one trying to get over her past trauma. She dated the notorious (but fictional) serial killer James Lincoln Fields (Cole Vigue), also known as the Rain Ripper, who killed 35 women. The use of rain as his inspiration to kill people during storms is interesting and the use of Don Clark’s song “Raindrops” as the film’s theme is the perfect choice and makes for some creepy moments.
Back to Mary, being involved with the Ripper, Mary was dubbed by the media as the Watcher, because James made Mary watch the deaths after she found out. Since that ordeal, she’s had paranoid delusions and being on the night shift at a secluded gas station probably isn’t the best thing for her, but it’s a great set-up for horror.
The side of the psychological horror is strong as Mary’s haunted by her past, as we see when Mary first sees her ex-boyfriend killing one of his victims (again) in Mary’s bathroom. Given that he’s a brutal serial killer, the violence is on the gnarly side. There are buckets of blood in a couple scenes, both in the slasher parts and the paranoia.
Balancing both slasher and paranoia is an intriguing mix in a horror film, as well. The film’s best horror scene is when Mary goes to the gas station’s outdoor bathroom and the encounter she has in there. This is when some of the craftiest scares happen. There’s a tendency for jump scares in Open 24 Hours, as there is with most slashers, but the creativity around that comes with Mary’s paranoia.
Since a lot of the horror is in Mary’s head, the jump scares don’t feel lazy when things pop out of nowhere, and the possibilities because of that are endless here and it makes for some fun scenes. In other scenes, one scare tactic is repeated on a couple occasions, as Mary would imagine something, back away from it and run into a real-life person, so it’s not as scary on the third use. The repeated use of this doesn’t hurt the film overall as the atmosphere’s generally strong. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in this gory and rain-soaked slasher, especially when Mary imagines the Rain Ripper set on fire and walking towards her at the gas station.
Speaking of the gas station, the setting is so great. Filmed in Serbia, the gas station is constructed in the middle of nowhere and the secluded setting is great for a night shift horror. Most of what happens in the film happens at this one location, and there are so many rooms in the gas station and on the property in general that it feels so spacious. There are just a lot of possibilities from this one location that it’s fun to see what’s used, especially the outdoor bathroom and a neighboring area that comes into play at one point.
Mary does occasionally have some company on her first night in the form of colleague Bobby (Brendan Fletcher). Fletcher’s good in the role, and when I saw his name in the cast list I assumed he’d be playing the killer, so him playing the earnest colleague is a surprising change of pace here. Vanessa Grasse is also strong as Mary, and their scenes together are solid, especially when Mary shares her backstory.
In terms of story structure, the pacing is good. Interestingly, we as the audience know some secrets well before Mary herself, like the big fact that someone is out there killing people. We’re not certain if it is the Rain Ripper, but we know these scenes definitely seem real. Padraig Reynolds’ screenplay has enough twists and turns that will keep you guessing throughout about the identity of the killer.
Knowing all this before Mary is a worthwhile sacrifice when it means there’s slasher action throughout the runtime. When Mary’s let into the action, there is still doubt in her mind if all of this is real and that keeps some of the paranoia dynamic in play. The transition from psychological horror to slasher is seamless, and I won’t spoil what happens there – other than it’s fun and will please slasher fans and lovers of gore.