Never Open the Door [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Maltauro Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (12th December 2016).
The Film

An already tense Thanksgiving dinner at a house in the woods hosted by authoritarian Luke (Mike Wood) and expectant wife Maria (Deborah Venegas) is disrupted by sudden banging on the door. "Hack-em-off" veterinarian Tess (The Haunting of Alice D's Jessica Sonneborn) makes the mistake of answering the door and being spattered with blood by a dying stranger (Steven Richards) who expires after the cryptic warning "Never open the door!" When jerky Terrence's (George Troester) suggestion that the man's blood could be carrying a contagion sends Tess running off to the showers, Luke's suggestion that the whole thing is a prank by the locals and that they should get on with dinner is met with incredulous reactions by his wife and betrothed guests Isaac (Matt Aidan) and Angel (Kristina Page). Attempts to call 911 redirect the calls to each other's mobile phones while the landline rings endlessly. The paranoia ramps up when Luke starts receiving a series of needling texts from an all-zero telephone number warning him of his pregnant wife's infidelity with Isaac. When Tess mysteriously vanishes only to call them up to tell them that she is running late, the others are reluctant to open the door to another Tess, with good reason since it becomes increasingly clear that something demonic is lurking both outside – personified by strange men in suits the terrified guests initially mistake for the mafia – and inside the house waiting for them to answer its call. While some members of the party are willing to abandon or sacrifice the others, what remains of their love and friendship for one another may be what makes them most vulnerable.

Seemingly inspired more so by Coherence and The Evil Dead than by the works of producer Christopher Maltauro's grandfather John Brahm (director of a number of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Twilight Zone episodes) for whom the film is dedicated, Never Open the Door manages to hold viewer interest over its sixty-four minute running time – including extended opening and closing credit sequences – as something between a mishmash of tired clichés and something off-kilter and potentially intriguing. Misguided improvised acting that has the characters seeming offputtingly irritable from the very start – and distractingly so for the duration – is more forgivable than some of the logic-defying leaps required of the characters to go from merely loathsome to psychotic in less than an hour, with little in the way of setup to establish the viewer is supposed to believe these characters mean something to each other. The more overtly supernatural turns of the script seem like an unimaginative copout and the twist is both nonsensical and utterly predictable. The digital photography reveals how much an illusion of gloss monochrome can lend even environments and wardrobe likely not dressed specifically for the palette, and the overall technical credits suggest the filmmakers are up to the task of producing a project that could better lend itself to the stylistic pretension with a little more time spent on development of script, characterization, and the sculpting of performances (the actors are not so much bad as their performances undisciplined) than this experiment.
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Video

As low budget as the film itself, Maltauro Entertainment's single-layer Blu-ray utilizes the outdated MPEG-2 codec for its 1080p24 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, but the film's monochromatic palette and videography are not adversely effected by the compression, with certain artefacting likely originating in the videography or the graded output.
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Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that lacks the depth of lossless audio but gets the job done in terms of scoring, dialogue, and sound effects. The optional English SDH subtitles (only available from the remote's "subtitle" button with no setup options) run slightly behind the dialogue and may have originally been closed captioning files.
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Extras

Extras start off with three reasonably informative extras, starting with A Conversation with Jessica Sonneborn (7:22) in which the actress discusses the differences in style and tone between the film and her earlier collaboration with the filmmakers Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, working under prosthetic make-up, and inadvertently talking herself into doing a shower scene. In A Conversation with Vito Trabucco (11:40), the director reveals that the concept was always "six people go crazy in a house" but that the project developed over his and producer Maltauro's love of Brahm's work, which lead to their decision to lense the film in black and white. Looking back on the project, he does express the wish that they had shot the film in reverse order so that the cast's chemistry which developed by during the shooting would have been strongest during the early sequences. In A Conversation with Christopher Maltauro (11:45), the producer is prone to hyperbole and overstates the cleverness of the finale but also does wish that the project had been better-scripted so that the cast would have something to fall back while improv-ing. A Photo Gallery (4:20) is also included with a number of posterized screengrabs, as well as a trailer (1:40) and "For Maggie" (6:16), a featurette in which Sonneborn, Trabucco, and Maltauro remember make-up effects artist Maggie Dillon who passed away roughly a year after the film was completed.
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Overall

Seemingly inspired more so by Coherence and The Evil Dead than by the works of John Brahm for whom the film is dedicated, Never Open the Door manages to hold viewer interest over its sixty-four minute running time as something between a mishmash of tired clichés and something off-kilter and potentially intriguing.
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