At a somewhat secluded cabin in the woods, six friends all sit down to dinner. Two couples, Luke (Mike Wood, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp) and Maria (Deborah Venegas, The Haunting of Alice D), Angel (Kristina Page, The Haunting of Alice D) and Isaac (Matt Aidan, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp), and two other friends – Tess (Jessica Sonneborn, The Haunting of Alice D) and Terrance (George Troester, who is known more for effects work on movies like Snow White & The Huntsman and Ender’s Game. He also did the makeup FX here and on The Haunting of Alice D). While it’s hinted at that Tess and Terrance have hooked up in the past, they’re not together. As the group banters back and forth there is a knock on the door, however, they’re not expecting anyone else. Somewhat apprehensively, Tess gets up and opens the door – immediately regretting it as an old man (Steven Richards, Bloody, Bloody Bible Camp) stumbles in, spitting up blood all over her. After falling to the ground he implores them to “never open the door!”. Who is this old guy and what happened to him? More importantly, where did Tess go after leaving to take a shower? As the group tries to discover the answers to these questions, it becomes more and more apparent that maybe they could have used the old guy’s advice BEFORE he ever showed up in the first place.
As soon as Never Open the Door (written by Christopher Maltauro, Vito Trabucco) starts you’re going to experience a tug of nostalgia and a “this looks familiar” feeling. The credits float across the screen with a wispy, cloud-like look as a somewhat playful yet foreboding score, very reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s work, plays. The credits end with the sound of a knock and an illustrated door opens, showing a creature’s hand. That’s when you realize that this could very well be the opening credits of an old horror/sci-fi anthology show like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone. When the actual movie starts, and you see that it’s in black and white, you are primed and ready for a modern take on those types of programs. However, it stumbles a little and never fully reaches its goal, like a gymnast who needs a 10, gets an 8 and has to settle for the Silver Medal. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there’s no pesky East German judge to blame a bad score on.
This is not to say Never Open the Door is a bad movie. In fact, it’s actually pretty good. Director Vito Trabucco’s follow-up to Bloody, Bloody Bible Camp reunites just about the entire cast and the fact that these folks have worked together before shows in the chemistry that they have. Everything is shot nicely and looks polished. He uses lighting effectively, giving us foreboding shadows when needed and brightly lit scenes when appropriate with nothing being too dark (a big problem with many directors, including A-listers), so everything is easy to see without having to squint and ask yourself who’s face that is peering back at you. The audio is as equally well done with no sudden drops in volume because a boom mic wasn’t in position, nor are there any jarring jumps in volume where it seems the mic was taped to the inside of the actor’s mouth.
The aforementioned “stumbles” involve some of the dialog and a little of the acting. The opening scene around the dinner table is almost painful to watch as the characters basically rip into one another with dialog that puts the “aggressive” in passive-aggressive. This wasn’t the playfully antagonistic back and forths that one would expect from friends and couples in love, but more like ones who had already been arguing over their failed marriages, infidelities and shortcomings. At first, it seems like maybe this almost angry tone will factor into the plot, but it never does. As things start to go South, genuine concern for one another is shown by the characters, making the opening dinner party conversation seem that much more out of place. On the acting front, everyone is pretty even and on point with Troester’s portrayal of Terrance being one of the more nuanced and enjoyable. Wood and Venegas, however, seem somewhat stiff at times while overly melodramatic at others. As such, it’s hard to accept them as a married couple.
That feeling of nostalgia mentioned earlier? Totally intentional. Everything from the credits to the ending, Never Open the Door is a love letter to co-writer and producer Chris Maltauro’s grandfather, John Brahm, a film, and television director best known for his extensive work on both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. “He made some of our favorite films from the 40’s and his Twilight Zone episodes are my favorite ones,” says Trabucco. “In no way are we trying to compare ourselves to him, but this movie is a tribute from us to John Brahm, his work, and his family.”
Never Open the Door is available on Blu-ray (SRP $24.95) and DVD (SRP $19.95) as of December 6th, courtesy of Maltauro Entertainment and Baumant Entertainment. The Blu-ray release includes exclusive bonus features such as the original trailer, a photo gallery and separate conversations with actress Jessica Sonneborn, director Vito Trabucco, and producer Christopher Maltauro.
Never Open the Door (3.5 / 5)