Review: Open Grave (2013)

January 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

open-grave-image02 (8/10) Written by Chris and Eddie Borey, Open Grave is the latest entry to a popular horror/thriller sub genre, that of a group of people waking up with no memories, but plenty of guns, ammo and gory surroundings to cause plenty of distrust and confusion. When the original SAW came out nine years ago, it took horror fans by surprise, delighting us with the simple and original concept of a twisted but oddly moralistic serial killer who kidnaps his victims, drugs them unconscious then allows them to try and escape upon waking, only to find themselves in increasing danger the closer they get to freedom, thanks to his deadly booby traps. It was a fresh take on an old trope, but quickly devolved into near-self parody, including the indie thriller Unknown, which boasted a strong cast with the likes of Greg Kinnear, Jim Caviezel and Barry Pepper while the SAW franchise relied on relative unknown (natch) actors to fill the endless ranks of victims through SEVEN sequels in just seven years.

With three years of SAW-less movies or lesser knockoffs like The Collector it’s high time, but Hollywood standards, for a worth successor to step up and scare us while making us think, just a little. Enter the Borey Bros. and director Gonzalo López-Gallego, director of the well advertised but underwhelming Apollo 18, a found-footage horror film set in space. With Open Grave Gallego has proven that a strong script can prove a promising director. Starring South African Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame, Open Grave is a fairly standard but well studied entry to this decade old trope. Waking up in a mass grave, Copley’s character remembers little to nothing at first, finding himself amongst a group of seeming survivors where nobody knows what is going on, but that something awful has happened and there are those amongst the group who may not be trustworthy, regardless of their equally wiped memories.

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The film unfolds into standard fare chaos of blood, guts, bullets and octane with a decent body count and plenty of red herrings to keep the proceedings interesting right up until the final shot. Copley is good, but the stand out of the cast is German actor Thomas Kretschmann, as the seeming leader of the survivors, who begins to unravel as the film wears on. He’s an underrated actor stateside who always manages to steal his scenes in American productions. The rest of the cast is adequate, with the third lead played by Erin Richards, a relative newcomer and unknown actress who comes off with the charms of a poor man’s Alice Eve.

The survivors begin to piece together that there may have been some kind of a mass genocide or chemical attack that wiped out many, many people and for one reason or another, there are six survivors with various innate abilities (one can read many foreign languages, another is an crack shot with a gun, etc.) and these abilities cause them to band together or break off into factions. The ending is typically nihilistic for the genre, leaving an opening for endless sequels just like other horror/thriller flicks.

All in all an expert entry into a tried and true formula.

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