Open Grave (2014)
Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego
Movies involving amnesia are always a gamble. The tendency to fall back on cliches - voiceovers, flashbacks, et al - to sustain the mystery often results in a film that’s anything but mysterious. It’s inorganic in its development, as if you can tell someone is behind the scenes, pulling the strings and leaving the clues to lead the characters to an end game that is summed up conveniently with more voice-overs and flashbacks. Such are the follies of Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s Open Grave, written by Chris and Eddie Borey and starring District 9’s Sharlto Copley.
Open Grave opens as you would expect: with an open grave. In it lies Copley, who awakens stricken with amnesia. He climbs his way out of the grave and to a house in the woods wherein a group of five individuals, all afflicted with amnesia, wait. In between hallucinations that suggests Copley’s heretofore unnamed character is a killer (we learn his name John), he and his five reluctant compatriots - Lukas, Nathan, Sharon, Michael, and the mute Brown Eyes - must work together to not just remember who they are and their connection to each other, but to survive against a mysterious external threat. This external threat, as it turns out, are other people; not quite zombies, not quite alive, they’re hiding in the forest or lurking in houses and sheds, and despite their prevalence, no one knows why they’re there.
Open Grave keeps the answers at bay by introducing new twists and turns as often as possible, but its inorganic progression and expository reveal at the end of the film does little to make the journey worth it. Although the conclusion is admittedly interesting, the preceding hour and a half is executed in a manner that renders it either wholly predictable, or, if you’re me, wholly uninteresting. Its little reveals, such as a mysterious bruises on their arms or the discovery of a photo revealing Sharon and John’s past extends deeper than they thought, happen with such frequency that everything just becomes confusing.
The focus remains on Copley throughout most of the film, who brings a sense of brooding seriousness to his character that simply sounds too forced to be taken seriously. Far too often he finds himself spouting expository dialogue for the benefit of the audience, yet as is the case in these scenarios, it just comes off sounding unbelievable. When the characters ultimately split up to search the area, none are given enough time to have their backgrounds fully explored, all of which are revealed at the end in the film’s summary conclusion. As such, you’re never given the opportunity to invest in any of them. It’s sad, because the characters all have their own stories, but the nature of the film doesn’t allow them to fully bubble to the surface.
Open Grave is an unfortunate film because it has an interesting story executed in a way that’s anything but. Its ending offers a chance at redeeming it, but it falls so far into cliche that it renders the film as a whole nothing more than a chore to sit through.
2 out of 5