Released in 1974, S. F. Brownrigg’s Don’t Open the Door! is a potentially memorable (albeit not particularly gory) slasher (or maybe “proto-slasher”) film, so how come it’s not better remembered? Well, unlike Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Don’t Open the Door! didn’t have quite the star power.
However, Don’t Open the Door! does have some creepy phone call harassment moments. In fact, if you’re a fan of old school slasher movies, you might just want to compare these two films regarding how they handle creepy phone calls [On that note: Yes, there are details here that may be considered spoilers, but for any film this old, that seems forgivable.]
Anyway, the story really centers around a woman named Amanda Post (Susan Bracken). Amanda returns to her childhood home in Texas, after receiving word that her grandmother (Rhea MacAdams) is on her deathbed. The grandmother’s primary caretaker, Dr. Crawther (Jim Harrell), sternly declines to put the old woman in a hospital, claiming it goes against the woman’s wishes. Then you have museum owner Claude Kern (Larry O’Dwyer) who initially seems normal, but soon turns out to be a real creep, and a murderous and disturbing tone starts permeating the entire scenario, complete with perverted and threatening phone calls.
Eccentric elements of “Don’t Open the Door!”
S. F. Brownrigg had previously released a film called Don’t Look in the Basement, which is now considered a minor cult classic. At the very least, the title reminds us that an ordinary location (a basement, an attic, etc.) can be creepy. Interestingly, Brownrigg’s movies would often have alternate titles like The Forgotten or Death Ward #13 for Basement or Don’t Hang Up for Don’t Open the Door! In some ways, “Don’t Hang Up” makes little sense for this film, though, as the freaky phone calls are something a person probably should stop answering and maybe inspire them to leave town.
That being said, the creepy phone call dynamic absolutely brings to mind Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be fair to say this film rips those off, as they both came out after this one! That being said, the story here becomes less relevant as the film progresses. Before long, it’s almost easy to forget that Amanda’s grandmother is still among the characters, or that there was an original murder. Basically, the creepy phone calls start to steal the show, which might not even be a critique but an observation.
Don’t Open the Door! becomes less about evidence of this or that, as there isn’t much mystery about her mother’s murder. It’s all about when Amanda receives the next phone call from her mother’s killer. It’s not a bad movie, as there is sufficient tension here, and one wonders how Amanda can protect herself from this maniac. Personally, I like how the killer seems to view himself as a puppetmaster, with his victims as his twisted marionettes.
This movie proves that, ultimately, a movie doesn’t need particularly likable characters to be interesting. The situation itself tends to overshadow the characters. Of course, there’s a tragic aspect to Don’t Open the Door!, too, as the young Amanda was basically caught in the crossfire as a child. Eventually, the serial killer aspect itself grows semi-confusing, as the movie sort of leaves certain fates unresolved, but maybe in a good way.
What are your thoughts on Don’t Open the Door!? Let us know in the comments!