Open Grave – 4 out of 5
Imagine waking up in an open grave surrounded by dozens upon dozens of bodies. First off, if it’s actually happened to you, you probably party really, REALLY hard and maybe need to cut back a little and secondly, that is how this film opens.
John (Sharlto Copley) wakes up in an open grave surrounded by dozens and dozens of bodies (like I said in the last paragraph) and he wakes up with no memory of who he is or how he got there. After escaping the mass grave, he finds several others who are all in question about who exactly they are and where they are currently located. Soon, paranoia and mistrust over John starts to overtake the group as they investigate where they are and are horrified to find violent and diseased people inhabiting the surrounding areas. Now it becomes a matter of survival as they try to piece together what happened to them.
|If I had a dollar for every time this happened to me...I would have exactly|
My only preparation for this film was I watched a single scene and read a synopsis before giving it a shot on Video on Demand on Christmas Eve…of course, the fact that Sharlto Copley was in it sure helped my decision to jump into this film without actually seeing a trailer. With little to no expectations going into this one, I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprise with how attention grabbing and interesting this film was.
|Sharlto Copley needs to be in more movies. The world will be a better place for it.|
Even though the film is classified as a horror/thriller, I didn’t think the film was really that terrifying...but that's not necessarily a bad thing. While the zombie/diseased people that become one of the film’s antagonists has their moments of terror, I found the question of who John is, why he and the others can’t remember anything, and whether or not John had anything to do with all the festering and decaying cadavers in the open grave and if he might be an unhinged killer to be the film’s highest selling point and greatest point of tension. While seeing the group run in terror from zombie-like people or seeing crazed individuals gnash and crawl their way towards them at every turn is frightening and visceral, seeing them struggle to remember and find clues to be pieced together was, without a doubt, the more heart-pounding thing about the film for me.
|Sure, they have no memory of who they are or where they are and, yes, they are|
being chased by death at every corner but it looks like a beautiful day.
Director Gonzalo López-Gallego really succeeded in bringing the feeling of frustration and anguish over the characters’ not being able to remember their own lives to the screen with well placed flashes of their memories coming back and a great pace with revealing little snippets of truth. The performances from the cast really helped seal the envelope that is the film as they are all just fantastic in their respective role. I hate to single any one of them out because they all really encompass the various emotions one would go through in this situation but I have to say that Sharlto Copley (a man I have, in the past, sang his praises quite a bit on) is just awesome in this film. Special mention has to be also made to Thomas Kretschmann as Lukas—one of the members of the group. Kretschmann’s character is suffering from a sickness that the other inhabitants of the area are stricken with and watching him go from a man who has no memory of who he was to an unhinged, ill man is really great and only adds another element of tension to the story and John’s journey.
|Okay, he may look like he's trying to remember where he left his keys in this shot but,|
trust me, Kretschmann is great in the film.
I’m going to do my best to make the next few paragraphs as spoiler free as possible but my favorite aspect of the film has to do with the movie’s ending and the fact that the movie does something different within a well-known and very popular genre of this day. Movies about amnesia are nothing new and have been done before—with varying degrees of success but going into Open Grave, I didn’t deduct points because it had this already established element; however, what it did with this when it combined with a very popular medium was something unique and very enjoyable. That combination was to make the film not only a horror-based one but one that was of the zombie/epidemic persuasion.
|It's rare when a zombie looks at you with the "what the fuck did you say to me?"|
I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers here (since you can see these infected attackers in the clips of this movie that are floating around the internet) but adding the amnesia angle to a zombie-like film really created for an enjoyable viewing experience and a refreshing take on the zombie movie genre (of course, zombie-purists will argue I am being too lenient by calling this one a zombie film). Having diseased/infected/zombified monstrosities hounding a group of people is fun enough but having this creatures haunt people who don’t even remember who the fuck they are really made for a more than solid film and one of the better zombie movies I’ve seen in the last few years.
Open Grave was better than anything I had anticipated—even when I had no real anticipations to begin with (so, really, if the film was even just average, it would have been better than what I was expecting). This movie could have been, easily, a generic piece of fluff that you would expect to just appear on DVD and you would only notice its existence when you hit your local RedBox but this movie really had a tight script, an engaging story, tremendous performances and is a unique take on the take on the zombie film that has a killer ending.