Vanessa Grasse plays Mary, a young woman with a whole mass of mental health issues, thanks to the fact that she eventually set fire to her serial killer boyfriend. Freshly released from prison, and keen to start making her life more normal, Mary gets a job working at a gas station, on the night shift. After being shown the ropes by Bobby (Brendan Fletcher), it is time for Mary to be alone. Just her and the customers. And the visions of her killer boyfriend doing more killing. But are the visions just in her head, or is he out for revenge.
Written and directed by Padraig Reynolds, who also gave us the fine little horror Worry Dolls, as well as some other enjoyable genre treats, Open 24 Hours has a lot that it does well, even if there are many moments that we have seen done numerous times before.
The first thing it does well is the way it shades the central character. Mary is a victim, and traumatised by what she went through, but there's also something more complicated to her relationship with her ex-boyfriend. She was referred to as "the watcher" by many, and Reynolds manages to maintain some ambiguity there as viewers get to consider how much Mary witnessed, and how much she may have found even slightly thrilling. It's a theme that runs through most of the movie, and elevates this above many similar slasher flicks.
The next thing it does well is casting. Grasse is just right in the lead role, showing her nervousness while not overdoing things. She doesn't have a huge filmography yet, but I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for her in any future movie projects. Fletcher is someone I always enjoy seeing onscreen, and does well in his supporting role, a friendly face who also gets some background information out of the main character, helping to get viewers more fully informed. Cole Vigue is suitably menacing as the real/imagined killer, and Daniel O'Meara is both tough and caring as Tom Doogan, the parole officer who wants Mary to at least have a chance to do better.
Reynolds does a great job with the script, throwing in some scares here and there throughout a first half that is all about character development before increasing the tension and potential for bloodshed in the second half. He's equally adept when it comes to the direction, maintaining a nice balance between the gore gags and the complex character at the heart of the story. A couple of moments threaten to make things a bit too far-fetched, but you can say that about most slasher movies. This remains more grounded than most.
There are flaws, and it's hard to say whether many people will enjoy this as much as I did, or whether they will prefer one half over the other, but Open 24 Hours is a film you should definitely give some time to. It does what Reynolds wants it to do, and it does it very well.