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Open Grave

2013 | 102 min | R | 2.39:1

Open Grave


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Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 03 January, 2014

Country of origin

 United States



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Open Grave Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 3, 2014

“Open Grave” has a nasty exposition habit. A horror film with some mystery on its menu, the picture is terrified to leave any viewer behind, always explaining itself, underlining relationships and spelling out tension. It’s an irritating routine, making the movie feel more diluted than it already is, with director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (“Apollo 18”) incapable of quieting down the effort, showing respect for intelligence and natural screen suspense. There’s a germ of an idea within “Open Grave” that deserves development, but what’s ultimately made it to the screen is simplified and stripped of feeling, scratching out the level of anxiety screenwriters Chris and Eddie Borey are aiming to summon with this end of the world endeavor.

John (Sharlto Copley) has snapped out of unconsciousness, finding himself in an open grave filled with dead bodies. With his memory erased, John finds a gun and a way out of the pit, marching to a nearby house. Inside are other individuals who don’t know who they are, including Nathan (Joseph Morgan), Lukas (Thomas Kretschmann), Michael (Max Wrottesley), Sharon (Erin Richards), and Brown Eyes (Josie Ho), a mute foreigner who seems to have a grasp on the situation, but no means of communication. At first hesitant to trust one another, the group soon teams up to decode the mystery of their meeting, with headaches, skills with weaponry, and primal emotions offering clues about the case. Also in play are vicious zombie-like humans who litter the countryside, making a clean escape impossible as the team struggles to understand more about these diseased, insane people.

“Open Grave” has the quality of a short film that’s being dragged out to a feature-length run time. It offers a classic introduction, greeting the lead character as discovers his position amongst the dead, assessing bodily wounds and his grim surroundings, soon finding a weapon and aid from Brown Eyes, who lowers a rope to help the man out of the pit. Finding strangers in a similar state of disorientation, John’s plight is the stuff of traditional mystery writing, as his purpose and place in the crowd is teased throughout the picture, with these combative types unsure of their safety without the benefit of an explanation. The Boreys are slavish to a design of confusion, hammering out these individuals through personality quirks and extremes of patience, while Brown Eyes remains the most baffling figure in the movie, scrambling around in silence as she witnesses the erosion of trust once blurred memories return to the strangers.

Playing “Open Grave” in puzzled looks and accusatory grunts would be ideal, allowing for a level of cinematic communication that best serves suspense. The production doesn’t trust that type of storytelling, electing to verbally underline every single thought that passes through the characters. “Open Grave” is ruined by its habitual need to clarify everything, with clunky dialogue rendering performances punishingly stuff, unable to express the strength of confusion the picture needs to successfully pass itself off as an epic question mark. The amount of hand-holding grows insulting the longer Lopez-Gallego employs exposition to pass for drama, losing track of character meaning as he scrambles to fit the puzzle pieces together. Monstrous encounters with the deteriorating ghouls promise chilling reveals, but the violence is mostly white noise, with a few unfortunate stylistic choices (e.g. blood splatter on the camera lens) sustaining an amateur hour atmosphere to the proceedings.

There are twists and turns to “Open Grave” as layers are peeled and true intentions are finally uncovered. It’s not especially pulse-pounding material, but the Boreys are committed to the cause, connecting the dots and setting up a sequel in the finale, trusting all the laborious explanation will smoothly flow into a second chapter. It’s a lofty goal, especially when “Open Grave” doesn’t establish enough suspense to fill one installment of this anemic apocalyptic saga. Perhaps next time a little more faith in the power of visuals and performance would do the trick. Anything but another 100 minutes of dull characters sharing their inner monologue would be preferable.

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Joseph Morgan, Thomas Kretschmann
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

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Open Grave, Forum Discussions

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Open Grave- Sharlto Copley 3 Jan 03, 2014

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