Monday, June 11, 2018

Memory Games

Look, I know I said that modern zombie movies should be more innovative with their storytelling, but I also believe we as horror fans deserve good movies.

Moving on...

Quick Plot: A man (District 9's Sharlto Copley) wakes up in a deep pit of corpses with no memory of how he got there or who he even is. With the help of a mystery mute woman (Josie Ho of the brilliant Dream Home), the man who now smells like a pit of corpses and will henceforth be known as John Doe discovers a group of equally attractive people in a nearby house, all of whom are also suffering from the same form of amnesia.

Suspicions arise and infighting begins, especially when some zombie-like creatures are found lurking in the woods. To say more would, I guess, spoil the (too) many twists of Open Grave, which becomes more puzzle being pieced together than a film with a driving narrative.

Directed by Apollo 18's Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego with a script from Eddie & Chris Borey, Open Grave feels like a relic of a recent bygone era in the genre film world, where every straight-to-DVD (remember those?) would put a gaggle of strangers together in a Saw-like scenario, forcing them to discover some terrible secrets about themselves in bad lighting. 

Never forget.

Filmed in 2013, Open Grave is somewhat removed from the slew of early 21st century horror I mentioned, but its overcomplicated plotting ultimately holds it back from being much better. It's disappointing, particularly when you consider the strong cast (even Resident Evil: Apocalypse/Karate Dog'Thomas Kretschmann shows up, primarily for me to remember that he's not Jaime Lannister). 

To SPOIL a few things here, consider the ultimate reveal of Open Grave: John is a scientist trying to find a cure to the rage-inducing plague apparently ravaging the world. Naturally, he has a team of equally attractive, same-aged peers as his research team because that's how science works. The antidote he creates causes temporary memory loss and a rescue team is coming to kill everyone on the property because science? and the mute woman without a name is the key to it all even if we don't ever know anything about who she actually is. 

This movie was...frustrating.

All the more so because it was obviously made with talent, both behind and in front of the camera. The ideas are interesting and in theory, the reveal should be too, but Open Grave just never settles into any kind of fluid pace to get us there. We ultimately learn the truth when one character's memory returns, mostly offscreen and recapped in a handwritten letter. It just doesn't move the way it should.

High Points
On paper, the twist is clever

Low Points
On screen, it's too convolutedly revealed to be so

Lessons Learned
Short-term memory loss may take away your name, but it will not impede your ability to read Latin

When dealing with barbed wire, always have a plan

Notes, people: leave 'em

Eh, Open Grave is certainly a high quality looking horror film, but it left me incredibly unsatisfied. It's better-made than your average Amazon Prime stumble-upon, but that doesn't make it fun to watch. 

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