Open 24 Hours review – forget the plot, the cast and tension are as strong as the violence

By Alix Turner
Published: July 18, 2020 (Last updated: February 9, 2024)
Open 24 Hours review - forget the plot, the cast and tension are as strong as the violence


A modern slasher about a young woman starting a new life after a term in prison for trying to kill her serial killer boyfriend. Excellent psychological and gory fare from Padraig Reynolds.

Now this was excellent. Open 24 Hours is a modern take on the classic slasher model, written and directed by Padraig Reynolds. In my opinion, it was much better than his earlier film Rites of Spring, which I struggled to get into. It’s engaging from the start; especially due to the quality of the lead, the sharp, atmospheric cinematography, and the realistically horrible location.

The central character of Open 24 Hours is Mary (Vanessa Grasse, Leatherface), trying to put a violent past behind her: she had been the partner of a serial killer, made to watch until the day came when she found the nerve to burn down the house with him inside. And out of all the films or shows I’ve seen about serial killers, I can’t think of any where we get to find out what happened to the spouse or partner who remains when they are caught. In this case, Mary too had been caught (for the arson), and now she has been trying to get a job, any job, since being released from prison two weeks ago, while also battling paranoia and delusions. Oh, joy!

Fortunately, she has a good friend who has stood by her, and her probation officer has signposted her to a gas station with a vacancy. Open 24 Hours is about Mary’s first night on the job, in a near-empty shop, at the same time trying to put out of her mind visions of the women her ex killed. We are given plenty of time to get to know Mary, before and after her job starts; and can easily sympathize with the fear she shows when she gets a weird phone call, and when she starts to see things that aren’t there. At times neither Mary nor the audience can be entirely clear what’s real, reminding me of psychological horrors such as Incident in a Ghostland and Braid.

But yes, this is indeed a slasher: people are gruesomely killed, and it is apparent that the baddie is getting steadily closer to the gas station. But unlike many famous slashers, there is nothing cheesy in Open 24 Hours, minimal jump scares, and no gratuitous boobs; in fact, I don’t recall any sexualizing of the female characters at all. It is almost all set in one location, adding claustrophobia to the tension, and that location must feel pretty exposed to poor Mary: it is fully lit at nighttime, anyone approaching would see her inside, and she would have nowhere to run. Oh and it’s a strangely realistic interior, despite seeming bigger on the inside, and despite being filmed halfway around the world from where it is set. The kind of convenience store attached to a couple of pumps, with storage and grimy toilets round the back, just like any of us might have patronized.

So being set in Deer Gas Market in the middle of the night, and in the rain (had I mentioned that?), there are plenty of fabulous shots contrasting light and dark. David Matthews’ cinematography is very effective: focusing on Mary, often circling around her, just as claustrophobic as the location itself. The villain gets the full width of the screen, looms above her, and we have no doubt of the dynamic. Holly Amber Church (who, like Matthews, has worked with Reynolds before) brings a very well-suited score to Open 24 Hours; sometimes just a little over-dramatic, but what slasher doesn’t have that issue?

The cast, overall, is strong; not just Grasse, by the way. Cole Vigue as her truly sinister ex, James; and Brendan Fletcher, as Mary’s endearingly dim but caring co-worker, Bobby. The story may be far-fetched, and it may have holes of various sizes, but the people hold it together: I’ll happily watch any of them again.

Actually, I’ll happily watch Open 24 Hours again too.

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