Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
I’ve always enjoyed movies that opened in the midsts of chaos. “Buried,” “Dark City,” and “The Thing” all start in the center of insanity and it forces the protagonist to reverse engineer the jigsaw pieces. Yeah, it’s a shallow plot devices, but at least it makes the experience semi-interactive instead of just shoveling gore at you. But when it comes to a movie that revolves around a fairly substantial grave, you get plenty of things shoveled at you.
“Open Grave” stars the cinematic late bloomer, Sharlto Copley and his battle with amnesia…then zombie-like things. John (Copley) wakes up in a pit of dead bodies with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Once he finds a gun and climbs out, he discovers a near by cabin. Inside is a group of people in a similar predicament and the only thing that ties them together is a mute that seems to know them. They call her Brown Eyes (Josie Ho) and she doesn’t speak english, so she can’t even communicate in writing.
After some grunting and arguing the group decides to work together to find out what happened. So Michael (Max Wrottesley), Nathan (Joseph Morgan), Sharon (Erin Richards), and Brown Eyes leer at each other while they drive around and contemplate who to trust. Overtime, John gets a pretty strong feeling that he, himself, is a murdering psychopath. He has several mentally crippling flashbacks of brutal violence. As horrifying as this is to fathom, he doesn’t seem compelled toward violence. Then there are some bat-shit crazy folks trying to murder them.
As far as the production quality goes, “Open Grave” looks pretty slick and the performances are solid. It’s nice to see the cast take a more sincere approach to the genre. For material such as this, instincts may suggest a more over-the-top approach and, as great as he was, Sopley wasn’t exactly subtle in “Discrict 9,” “A-Team,” or “Oldboy.”
When the aura of mystery ends, “Open Grave” starts to linger. Characters kind of give up and wait for clues to come to them. It’s that kind of stagnancy that really hampers the momentum, especially when my curiosity was so high in the beginning. When the mystery is finally revealed, it’s fully explained in voiceover. Voiceover? Really? There’s not enough information for the audience to put the whole thing together? I don’t know if that was intended, but it certainly felt like it was reluctantly added. Anyway, here are some spoilers:
As it turns out, these people are scientists and there’s a virus plaguing the world that transforms humans into violent psychopaths. They were working on a cure, but it still has some kinks (a la amnesia). Brown Eyes is the linchpin to salvation as she’s genetically immune. There’s also a military rendezvous that may turn ugly if they don’t have a vaccine ready.
It’s fairly refreshing to see a movie take place in between where other zombie/outbreak/apocalypse movies usually start. It’s also neat to see characters that were once zombies( or whatever those were in “28 days later”). I’m kind of fatigued when it comes to only-doom-as-an-option apocalypse movies.
END OF SPOILERS:
Anyway, “Open Grave” may not reinvent the wheel, but it does enough to surpass most of the genre’s exhausted tropes. The major fault is once some of the mystery fades, it devolves into something pretty familiar. Is that a deal breaker? Eh, not really. It’s well made and it makes some of those gears turn in that ol’ noggin of yours. None of the Fast and Furious movies can say that and there’s like 28 of them.
EXTRA TID BITS:
– Sharlto Copley was also not subtle in “Elysium.”
– You could put this in between “28 days later” and “28 weeks later.”
– Since the open grave is just for dead bodies, how about a rope ladder?