Ginger Nuts of Horror
There seems to be a new trend emerging over the past few months with regards to horror films. It may well be that I have just become more discerning as to what films I watch, or it may well be that there are just more intelligent films out there that are not aimed at pre-pubescent teenage boys. Open Grave is one of these new breeds of horror film.
When Jon wakes up in a giant pit filled with dead and decaying corpses, he soon realises that he has no memory. Not just to why he ended up in the pit he has no memories, of who is, where he came from, hell he can't even remember who is mother is.
With some help he gets out of this hellish pit and he finds himself in the company of a group of people who like him have no memory. Stuck in an old farmhouse in the middle of huge forest with no knowledge of anything we follow this band of characters on journey of discovery, that is littered with the rotting corpses of shocking secrets.
To say much more about the film’s plot would be to give too much away. Open Grave is one of those films that works best when you go in knowing nothing. Rest assured the filmmakers don't leave you waiting too long before they start providing the answers. By the time you reach a rather shocking and brutal scene involving a barbed wire fence you'll pretty much know where the story is going and where it sits within the horror genre.
In terms of its place Open Grave is a welcome addition to the genre. It's not often that you get a wholly original film in this particular brand of horror. The writer and director made a wise decision in keeping these elements of the film a step back from the main narrative thrust of the movie, which is the characters discovering who they are, and how they react to their new found knowledge.
One of the reasons for this may have been due to the budgetary constraints of the film. This is a low budget film, however with this in mind Open Grave is a great looking film. Rather than wasting lots of cash on your typical money shots, the budget has been spent on ensuring the film has a gritty feel to it. There is a real satisfying tone to feel to the film. The dirt and blood splatters on the cast is satisfyingly grimy. You can also tell that a decent amount of the budget was spent on one of the final shots, a wonderful wide angled shot of the landscape which has a real "Oh my God" feel to it.
When your budget is small, you have to make sure that the script and actors are good enough to carry the film. For the most part both work really well. There are some fine performances from the cast, in particular Sharlto Copley's performance is outstanding. He is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors. His performance is an excellent mix of bewilderment, anger, and frustration.
Josie Ho’s performance as the mute, Brown Eyes is also very good, she brings a real sense of fear and uncertainty to her character.
As for the script, in the main it works very well. Plots involving Amnesia can be somewhat clichéd and predictable, however the clever plot idea of making everyone an amnesic ensures that doesn't happen. Where the script falls down is in the middle section, which felt just a little bit too long and at times felt devoid of either action or plot development. The use of partial and broken flashbacks is handled well, and ensures that the viewers are still left wondering as to who if any of the characters are the bad guys.
One scene in particular really grated, without giving too much away it involved a car that suddenly wouldn't start, even though it was running two minutes earlier. This reliance of age old clichés is not needed, especially when the rest of the film makes such an effort to be original.
Open Grave is one of those films whose ending is going to get a lot of people very angry. It's certainly brave, and tonally fits in perfectly with the dark, bleak and oppressive feel of the rest of film. It's been a long time since a small piece of paper has had me screaming NO!! at the television screen. Don't come here looking for a happy ending or a film full of nice tidy resolutions.
Open Grave, despite a slightly flabby middle, and that really annoying scene with the car, is an assured film. It's a film that doesn't treat the viewer as a mindless idiot, you actually have to pay attention as the story unfolds. It's not a mindless rollercoaster of a film. The horror comes not from silly jump scares, but from a slow and steady realisation of their gravity of their situation and from some strong performances. If you are fed up with the same old horror film then Open Grave is the film for you. From the opening scene with the sounds of bones and ligaments cracking back into place, to the film's resolution Open Grave is worthy of your time
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