05th Oct2014

Grimmfest 2014: ‘Open Grave’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Josie Ho, Joseph Morgan, Erin Richards, Max Wrottesley, Márta Szabó, Balázs Szitás, Zsuzsanna Szabados, Tofi Seffer | Written by Eddie Borey, Chris Borey | Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego

Open-Grave-cast

On paper Open Grave sounded like yet another “homage” to the likes of Buried. After all its the tale of a man who wakes up on the titular open grave – that alone was enough to spark comparisons for me. How wrong could I have been…

Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego (Apollo 18), Open Grave stars Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) as a man who wakes up in a pit full of corpses with no memory. He’s rescued by a mute Chinese woman who leads him back to a house where there are four other people who have all “awoke” with the same loss of memory and total lack of idea who they are and why they are there. Trying to discover what exactly is going on, things quickly spiral out of control – as it would given that everyone is paranoid about what’s happened to them and wondering if the others are to blame!

A slow-burning murder-mystery that is not only your typical whodunnit but asks why as well, Open Grave utilises the same “Ten Little Indians” style tropes seen in the likes of Identity – a movie which in fact shares a lot in common with this. Thankfully, unlike Gallego’s previous effort, the divisive Apollo 18, this film is more concerned with character and mood rather than spectacle and jump scares, leaving the audience in as much confusion as it’s cast of characters rather than play its hand too early. It’s like watching a riddle unfold on screen, with the audience constantly trying to work out what’s going on before the next clue is revealed. For seasoned horror fans it may become obvious to what’s happening, as it was for me, but it’s still a LOT of fun watching events unfold on screen.

That “fun” is down to the films cast, led by Sharlto Copley, who come together as a fantastic ensemble. Copley is the audiences way into the story and, as usual, he delivers a stunning, thoughtful performance. I’m sure the guy could read the phone book and make it sound super-intense and full of passion. Thankfully co-star Thomas Kretschmann has put that godawful role in Argento’s Dracula behind him here, delivering something of an on-edge (and on-point) manic performance which perfectly captures the feel of someone in this particularly harrowing situation. But the real stand-out role belongs to Josie Ho, whom I last saw in 2010′s shocker Dream Home, as the only non-English speaking member of the group and the only one who actually knows what is going on! Ho manages to convey a myriad of emotions without uttering a word, and thanks to her superb performance you really feel her frustration at not being able to convey, at least in words, who these people are and more importantly why they are there.

Praise must also go to Open Grave‘s writers, who clearly were not afraid to take a chance on keeping their cards close to their chests and instead revealing only the information the characters needed to know, and keeping the audience as much in the dark as they are. It’s a rare and mature choice in this day and age of spoon-feeding the lowest common denominator audience; and one that should be exalted.

Honestly, it’s hard to talk about Open Grave without spoiling the films major twist. This is one of those films that demands the audience go into the story cold and discover what is happening alongside its characters. It’s by no means a perfect film – for one, the big plot reveal occurs almost exactly half way into the film and it slows the pace of the film down to a crawl. I would have liked to see said reveal occur later, ramping up both the tension and the urgency of the film towards its conclusion. Thankfully the snails pace is offset by a great cast; a wonderful, well-thought out and well-plotted story, and a touching finale which hits all the right notes.

**** 4/5

Open Grave is released on DVD and Limited Edition Blu-ray (a Zavvi exclusive) on October 13th, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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