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I Dare You to Open Your Eyes Review

May 23, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
I Dare You to Open Your Eyes
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I Dare You to Open Your Eyes Review  

I Dare You to Open Your Eyes Review

Nick Ribbeck– Max Adams
Tom Muehlbauer– Nick Adams
Sami D’Orsaneo– Piper
Antonio Streeter– Lucas
Ken Consentino– Gage
Hope Muehlbauer– Charlie
Jay Mattingly– Mr. Gromer
Elizabeth Houlihan– Miranda Adams

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Hope Muehlbauer
Screenplay by Hope Muehlbauer and Tom Muehlbauer

Produced by Hopeless Pictures and White Lion Studios

Not Rated
Runtime– 89 minutes


I Dare You to Open Your Eyes, directed and co-written by Hope Muehlbauer, is an amazingly effective horror movie. Part shockingly depressing slice of teen angst, part weird beard slasher flick, I Dare You To Open Your Eyes grabs you by the face, knees you in the gut, and then chops the back of your neck as you double over in pain. It’s also a top notch feature film debut for teen moviemaker Muehlbauer, announcing to the world that there’s a new, potent voice in the low budget horror movie world ready to kick ass and take names. It really is one of those kinds of movies.

I Dare You to Open Your Eyes stars Nick Ribbeck as Max Adams, a depressed teen male just trying to get through each day without getting more depressed. His mother is dead and his father, Nick (co-screenwriter Tom Muehlbauer), is often away at work or getting drunk. On top of all that, Max is bullied at his high school by a trio of douchebags (Piper, Lucas, and Gage, as played by Sami D’Orsaneo, Antonio Streeter, and Ken Consentino). It’s not exactly the best life. Max’s only real moments of happiness, if you can call it that, consist of visits to the cemetery, hanging out with his pet snake Stanley, and watching old horror movies on TV. When he does interact with his father, Max and Nick have a kind of good relationship, but they’re not around one another enough for it to be better (Nick is also constantly pissed about Stanley the snake getting out of his snake enclosure thing, so that’s a big point of contention between the two). What the heck can Max do to get out of the life situation he finds himself in? Can he get out of it?

Max goes to see his high school guidance counselor, Mr. Gromer (Jay Mattingly), to get some advice about what his future could be. Max doesn’t learn all that much. Max then gets beat up by his three bullies after he goes to a Halloween store and buys a new mask. A vulture mask. It’s also around this time that Max meets Charlie (director Hope Muehlbauer herself) and, suddenly, Max has a friend. A real friend.

Now, in a “normal” movie the presence of Charlie would likely result in some sort of romantic plot. Max likes her, Charlie likes him, but as the movie progresses you realize that their relationship isn’t like that. It’s simply a platonic thing. The movie has other themes and relationships on its mind. At the same time, Charlie’s relationship with Max isn’t something meant to “save” him and “fix” things. It’s almost like Max is doomed.

While all of that is going on, Max has panic attacks that he has a hard time dealing with. Max starts to dream about “fixing” his issues and killing off his problems. But is what we see him do actually what’s happening? And how does the vulture mask play into things?

I don’t want to say any more about the plot of I Dare You to Open Your Eyes as it doesn’t really play out the way you think it’s going to play out. The movie’s slasher elements, at first, seem ridiculous. As the movie goes on, though, they mesh quite well with the movie’s much stronger “serious drama” aspects and, when it’s all over, you realize quite quickly that none of it is ridiculous. It’s heartbreaking. It’s disturbing. It’s sad as hell. Even when it seems like there’s a sense of triumph for any of the characters, that’s nothing more than a fleeting feeling. There is no real happiness here in I Dare You to Open Your Eyes.

All of the main characters are fully developed and, as a result, you never really, truly hate anyone. Not even the bullies, and the bullies are reprehensible. The crap that they put Max through is just awful. However, Piper, Lucas, and Gage aren’t just horrendous people who all woke up one morning and decided to be terrible. Their life experiences made them awful, and they somehow found one another. When we see the bullies all together, hanging out and whatnot, it’s almost like they’re real, regular people. They’re not special. They really are just people.

Muehlbauer’s direction is strong and assured. This is her first feature as a director, but it feels like she’s been doing this kind of thing forever. There are no real wasted moments. The slasher elements are all pretty straightforward. There’s no real suspense involved, but then it isn’t that kind of slasher movie anyway. There’s a masked killer, the killer kills people, and it’s sort of scary. That’s enough to qualify. Muehlbauer uses the drama to horrify more than anything else.

The movie is technically proficient. The sound can be soft every so often, but, truthfully, this is one of the best sounding mega low budget movies I’ve ever seen. Even when the dialogue is soft and could have been louder you can still hear what the characters are saying. The music, by Jay Zgoda, never overpowers the scene, something else that tends to happen in the mega low budget movie world. You’d think Muehlbauer and company spent untold thousands of dollars on the sound.

The performances are all quite good. Nick Ribbeck is excellent as Max Adams. He embodies the idea of a depressed and bullied/put upon teen while never being annoying. I thought I was going to slowly dislike him as the movie went on as I figured he’d whine a lot, but that didn’t happen. You end up rooting for him, even if you don’t care for what he’s doing (or what he thinks he’s doing).

Tom Muehlbauer does a good job as Max’s father Nick. Life has beaten Nick down quite a bit, but he’s found a way to keep going. He wants to spend more time with his son, but there’s only so much time in the day and he’s trying his best. Nick is screwing things up, but, dammit, he’s trying. That should count. Muehlbauer has a natural chemistry with Ribbeck that starts out like they’re brothers but it slowly becomes a loving father/messed up son kind of thing. It’s interesting to watch their relationship unfold. Muehlbauer’s line readings are a little stiff at the beginning of the movie, but he becomes more comfortable in front of the camera as the movie progresses.

Sami D’Orsaneo is the bully you will remember the most. Antonio Streeter and Ken Consentino are both terrific in their roles (Consentino’s Gage has the most badass line in the movie towards the end. You’ll know it when you hear it), but Piper will annoy you. Her life is messed up big time, yes, and she does horrible things, but the way she handles the big “pie” scene is just heartbreaking and maddening. Goddamit, why do things have to be this way?

And Hope Muehlbauer is a natural in front of the camera as Charlie. She’s funny, she’s confident, she’s the friend everyone wishes they had. What the heck does Charlie do after the ending unfolds? Is that the plot of the eventual sequel?

I Dare You to Open Your Eyes is a top notch mega low budget horror flick and a stunning feature film debut for director Hope Muehlbauer. I saw it when it screened at the 2018 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and it played quite well on a big, real deal movie theatre screen. I’m not sure if it’s been out and about at other film festivals since Buffalo Dreams, so keep an eye on the movie’s Facebook page for future screenings or home video opportunities. If you’re a serious horror movie nerd, I Dare You to Open Your Eyes is a movie that should definitely make an effort to see. I know I want to see it again.

See I Dare You to Open Your Eyes. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 5

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: People texting, someone setting up a series of knives for some reason, jogging, TV watching, a wicked sad story about a gay kid that killed himself, asthma attack, a journal, mask shopping, a serious beating, cigarette to the face, blood spitting, bloody urination, hallucinating, school project hooey, an awkward couch conversation, sexy blue underwear, getting drunk, a Jack-o-lantern, breakfast, attempted bonding via beer, a super awkward hug, a “walking around a carnival” montage, pumpkin picking, goat touching, hay ride hooey, axe to the gut, axe to the side of the neck, talking to a snake, cupcake eating, slow motion throwing an inhaler in a urinal sequence, more attempted bonding, booze stealing, face slapping, face punching, serious parental abuse, a drunken conversation, lasagna, pet kidnapping, chair bondage, slow motion slamming a pet into a tree, disturbing face painting, slow motion pillow throwing, more hallucinating, lunch, bar talk, cereal eating, a lack of interest in education, Christmas lights, more journal hooey, lava lamp, dope smoking, dancing like an idiot, the world’s fastest working chloroform, more chair bondage, knife throwing, more face slapping, bloody ear removal, forced eating of a bloody ear, some serious chest stabbing, slow motion exploding pie, axe to the back, and a depressing as hell ending.

Kim Richards?: Sort of. It depends on where you think the age cut off should be.

Gratuitous: High school, a “kick me” sign, finding a pencil, a picture of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase on the wall for some reason, candy. A vulture mask, bullying, i>Carnival of Souls on TV, a snake eating a mouse, someone writing a phone number on someone else’s wrist, multiple philosophical phone conversations, a “walking around a carnival” montage, ripped knee jeans, a totally unprovoked verbal attack on Jason X, asshole father yelling at his kid in slow motion, man boobs, Rue Morgue Magazine, Bela Lugosi on TV, bar bullshit, an old picture in a really nice frame, a nice and understanding grandparent, and a depressing as hell ending.

Best lines: “Hi, I’m Max Adams,” “His name is Stanley,” “It’s not an excuse. It’s a reason,” “All right, Max, I guess we’ll see you tomorrow then,” “He’s all I got!,” “Let me tell you something, Max. Life is a vulture, and it picks away at you until you rot,” “I told you you should quit smoking,” “I’ve been dreaming a lot about my Mom lately. I miss her. I miss my Dad, too,” “You have an interesting house,” “You have plans? You have a hot date?,” “How do you drink that shit?,” “See, that wasn’t that bad, was it?,” “Come on mnotherfucker!,” “Jason fucking X?,” “Aww shit! Yeah!,” “Jesus, Max, you should be trying to date her, not fight her,” “Do you still like cake?,” “You’re not a fuck up,” “Keep your eyes shut bitch!,” “What, you got granola bars again?,” “Well, if he had weed you always gotta do it,” “Go home to your son, Nick!,” “Hey, Max, you home? I gotta go in early,” “Max, I gotta get going,” “Dad! Merry Christmas!,” “Piper! Quit fucking around! This is Christmas weed!,” “My Mom died, too, man, I know how it feels,” “Dying for some Christmas weed, baby!,” “I dare you to open your eyes,” “Dad?,” and “So, Max, pay close attention.”

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
I Dare You to Open Your Eyes is a stunning feature film debut for director and co-writer Hope Muehlbauer. Serious minded, dark, and depressing as hell, it’s the kind of horror flick that will stay with you long after it’s over. Featuring a great cast, a strong story, and an ending that will feel like a punch to the face, I Dare You to Open Your Eyes is a mega low budget horror flick that you absolutely must see. Director Muehlbauer will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in the future. See this movie.