After a strong opening sequence of utter intrigue and obvious horror cliché, Gonzalo Lopez- Gallego’s Open Grave unfortunately skips the beats between impressive horror moments. The opening awakening is followed by the disappointing decision to have a group of amnesiac strangers collide and hit high-tension in a deserted house. It’s a set-up too often seen and not often remembered, and when the film has the balls to tell a Zombie story from a different angle, that’s kinda dull. Lopez-Gallego has unfortunately assumed that going the roundabout way into Z-territory is tantamount to edgy storytelling rather than executing firm believable characters (and thus believable situations) which would have been far more involving.
The problem with Open Grave is that the idea is actually really cool, the aesthetic is great (all the locations and most of the shooting are consistently collected into one tone of decay), but the execution of the narrative is all over the place. There’s so many tropes and “spooky” things going on that you kinda feel like you’re walking through a theme park of spooks. There’s some Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes, The Crazies feels like a staunch influence, also the film seems to owe a lot to 28 Days later. Nothing wrong with influences, you just have to do something with them. The film’s desire to trickle information back to both the characters and audience works to a certain point then it gets in the way of the characters developing into anything we care about, because any second they might remember being a fucking mad person. Sometimes the film’s sedate sunny vibe is touchingly gruesome, like a summer nightmare, at others it’s so laconic the film can’t move ahead. When it tries to engage in scenes of strong horror they seem out of sync with the rest.
Copley is great, and credit is due for joining such an unsure venture, especially when he’s one of the things holding our attention when the spoon-fed flashbacks kick-in. But even he can’t save the film from its own deliriously laughable internal monologues which are cringe-worthy to say the least. Kretschmann on the other hand is a hoot to watch, lifting some of the pacing problems into another stratosphere with some emotionally unstable behaviour courtesy of his condition. He might be overacting, but in Open Grave that’s better than under-acting.
A mediocre film that has the guts to push in a new direction, Open Grave is actually an enjoyable watch with some great moments. Gonzalo Lopez- Gallego proves he has an eye for a shot and a good control over tone, and weirdly the overuse of crawling gentle sequences is at times the film’s worst and best feature.
Dir. Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Stars. Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Josie Ho, Joseph Morgan, Erin Richards