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Vito Trabucco
Jessica Sonneborn, Mike Wood, Deborah Vennagas, Matthew Aidan, Christina Page
Writing Credits:
Christopher D. Maltauro and Vito Trabucco

Three happy couples enjoy the holidays in a cozy secluded cabin in the woods when they are suddenly interrupted by an unprecedented event that will forever change their lives.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English Dolby Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 64 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 12/6/2016

• “A Conversation with Actress Jessica Sonneborn”
• “A Conversation with Director Vito Trabucco”
• “A Conversation with Producer Christopher Maltauro”
• Photo Gallery
• “For Maggie” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Never Open the Door [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 6, 2016)

With 2016’s Never Open the Door, we get a horror flick with a decidedly retro vibe. Set over Thanksgiving, three couples enjoy the holiday at a secluded cabin.

This event goes awry when a wounded stranger (Steven Richards) shows up at their door. After he vomits blood onto Tess (Jessica Sonneborn), he passes away – but not before he utters a cryptic warning to “never open the door”. Spooky, weirded-out shenanigans ensue.

At the start of this review, I referred to Door as a movie with a retro feel. Much of that comes from the black and white photography, but Door adopts other techniques to make it resemble a much older film. The credits come from the Saul Bass school, and they even feature fake “print scratches”. Add to that a soundtrack with limited scope and the movie lacks most modern touches.

Do these choices function as anything more than faux “period” gimmicks? Not really, as the movie provides a self-conscious and badly flawed experience.

At its heart, Door boasts the bones of a decent psychological thriller. The movie sets up in a way that keeps the audience off-guard in terms of reality versus perception. Is there supernatural menace at work or does the horror come from the overactive imaginations of the participants?

More importantly, will anyone care? Probably not, as Door tells its tale in such a problematic manner that the end result fails in virtually all possible ways.

Apparently the filmmakers allowed the actors to improvise much of the dialogue, and this becomes one of the movie’s key issues, especially because Door launches with a heavy character orientation. We spend a fair amount of time with the Thanksgiving meal, a segment intended to develop the personalities involved.

This flops miserably, as the dinner sequence seems awkward and stilted. It never comes across like an actual chat among friends, as instead, Door sticks us with clumsy exposition and lines that exist solely to spell out characters.

Nothing about this segment feels real, so the dinner comes across as strange and disconnected from reality. A character declares “while I have your attention…” even though there’s no reason for her to be the focal point at that time – the line exists as one of many bizarre pieces of dialogue in a weak introductory sequence.

Horrible acting doesn’t help. Not a single one of the performers rises above the level of “rank amateur” – and some of them struggle to be that good. I doubt the actors could be worse if they tried – the performances consistently seem unnatural and unconvincing.

Matters fail to improve after the injured stranger ends up on their door. Even with a mix of possible horror machinations, the story progresses in such a clunky way that it fails to generate any scares or tension. The movie proceeds from one idiotic moment to another, with no sense of coherence or terror.

All of this leads toward an ending that seems far too clever-clever for its own good. Maybe some will enjoy its Twilight Zone vibe, but I think the finish comes across as gratuitous and pointless.

Kind of like the rest of the movie. Even at a mere 64 minutes, Never Open the Door overstays its welcome, as it provides terrible filmmaking at all levels. It feels like a movie made by college friends over a booze-filled weekend and it doesn’t deserve your attention.

Footnote: a tag scene appears after the end credits.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C-/ Bonus C

Never Open the Door appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image was watchable but erratic.

Sharpness became one of the inconsistent elements. Much of the film showed fairly good accuracy, but more than a few oddly soft shots occurred. I got the impression Door was filmed on lesser-quality digital cameras, and that left the result as less than concise.

No signs of jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes or unintentional print flaws. The black and white imagery tended to seem somewhat flat, as the movie lacked great contrast. Blacks were too dense and inky, and shadows could be a little too dark. This was all still good enough for a “C+”, but the movie never offered strong visuals.

Unusual for a modern movie, Door opted for a simple Dolby Stereo soundtrack. As mentioned in the body of the review, this appeared to be a conscious choice to embrace the film’s “retro” feel, but it still surprised me.

Even the stereo designation wasn’t really accurate, as Door came across as monaural. If any audio popped up in the left or right channels, I didn’t hear it, as the end result felt firmly oriented in the center.

Not only did the mix lack ambition, but also it suffered from mediocre quality. Dialogue tended to be thick and sibilant, with a fair amount of awkward dubbing along for the ride.

Music and effects seemed somewhat harsh and metallic, and the mix lacked a natural feel. Balance was off, which meant quiet elements – like simple dinner sound effects – became too loud.

This was an awkward, amateurish soundtrack that was far below 2016 standards. Even if we accept the choice to give a modern movie a monaural mix, the quality of the track made it problematic.

Among the set’s extras, we get three chats under the banner of “A Conversation With”. The first involves actress Jessica Sonneborn and runs seven minutes, 22 seconds. She chats about how she got her role, her character/performance, working with makeup effects, and aspects of the shoot. Sonneborn gives us a few decent thoughts.

“A Conversation with Director Vito Trabucco” lasts 11 minutes, 41 seconds. The filmmaker discusses the film’s roots and development, story/character areas, inspirations and stylistic choices, sets and locations, cast and performances, elements of the shoot, editing and music. Trabucco speaks quickly and packs a lot of info into this short, engaging piece.

Finally, we get “A Conversation With Producer Christopher Maltauro”. In this 11-minute, 45-second piece, the producer talks about collaborating with Trabucco and story choices, improvisation, effects, influences, stylistic choices and other production areas. Maltauro expands on Trabucco’s thoughts in this good interview.

One note about the Maltauro conversation: it ends extremely abruptly, with the producer in mid-thought. This clearly wasn’t intentional, but I don’t know if it’s just a weird glitch on my copy or it’ll affect all Blu-rays of Door.

For Maggie fills six minutes, 15 seconds with Sonneborn, Trabucco, and Maltauro. They discuss Maggie Dillon, a special makeup effects artist who died after the film’s completion. It becomes a nice remembrance.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a Photo Gallery. It provides a running four-minute, 20-second compilation of shots from the movie and from the set. It never becomes especially interesting.

At its heart, Never Open the Door offers the basics for an effective thriller. However, the project seems so idiotic and amateurish that it falters from start to finish. The Blu-ray presents acceptable picture with limited audio and a decent roster of bonus materials. If you’re not directly related to someone involved, you should skip Door - it’s terrible.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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