|From the film's premiere in Paris, Texas, May 3, 1974|
The opening titles are a fantastic sequence of surreal, strange looking dolls on a black background, accompanied by a very well done 70s-era score, with ominous elevator-music flutes, a dominating bass guitar, and a harpsichord that would be almost Laurie Partridge if it wasn't so spooky sounding. The score goes back and forth between these intricate, jazzy arrangements to stark, percussive stingers. In one of the film's creepiest moments, a sleeping woman is approached by an assailant with a knife occupying the camera's point of view, while on the sound track percussion bubbles with an erratic dual heartbeat.
The use of point of view shots is common in Brownrigg's films, and so are closeup shots that make ordinary gestures seem ominous. Our heroine in "Don't Open the Door" gets a series of sadistic phone calls from an anonymous, whispering man, and one shot is dominated by the spiral phone cord while she is slightly out of focus behind it, the shot resolving itself as she hangs up and brings the receiver toward the camera, close up and in focus. The use of shadows is also tremendous in this film. The villain makes his phone calls from a secret place in the house, hiding in what seems to be a crawlspace or passage between the walls, with his face lit only dimly. Amanda is shot mainly in bright light at the beginning of the film, although toward the climax she, too, is filmed in shadow and darkness.
|The house used in the film features this unique tower with multicolored windows. Susan Bracken's character in the film, Amanda, calls it 'the house of seasons'.|
But Kearn isn't interested in actually killing Amanda, not even when he drugs her and touches her intimately while she's unconscious. What he really wants is to manipulate and toy with her, to lure her into a game that her mother apparently refused to play. At first Amanda handles her strange phone caller with indifference, but eventually he gets into her head when she starts to realize that she's talking to her mother's killer. In an excruciating scene, he threatens to kill her grandmother unless Amanda engages in phone sex with him. Afterwards, before hanging up with her, he commands her to go to sleep and forbids her to leave the house or use the phone. At this point she doesn't realize he's in the house with her, watching her, but she obeys him anyway.
In the end, Brownrigg's story (written by Frank Schaefer and Kerry Newcomb) finds its greatest horror not in the staging of murders, but in the disintegration of Amanda's stability, much like 1973's "Let's Scare Jessica To Death". All four of Brownrigg's horror films dealt with insanity, with no supernatural elements whatsoever, although "Don't Open the Door!" and "Keep My Grave Open" both have a strong phantasmagorical quality to them with extended sequences where Brownrigg indulgently lets his camera linger on certain details and characters, like the scene where Amanda is drugged. Brownrigg doesn't actually let Kearn's face be shown in this scene, even though we know it's him. Instead, we see his hands in closeup on Amanda's body while echoing dialogue repeats on the soundtrack. There is also a fantastic sequence near the beginning of the film where Amanda explores the old house, the camera following her up staircase after staircase until she is standing in the unique tower at the top of the house, surrounded by different colored windows.