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Few horror films begin as promisingly as Open Grave. The opening sequence of this effort from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego depicts a man (Sharlto Copley) waking up in the middle of the night in a mass grave, surrounded by seemingly hundreds of corpses. He has no idea how he got there, or even who he is. His desperate efforts to lift himself up from the pit are depicted with a visceral intensity that is heightened by the arresting camerawork and sound design.
Once he escapes with the aid of a mute young woman known only as Brown Eyes (Josie Ho), the man, whose name turns out to be Jonah, takes refuge in a nearby house in the woods occupied by four other amnesiacs who are similarly at a loss as to how they wound up there. At least knowing their names thanks to the driver’s licenses in their possession, they are immediately wary of the mysterious intruder. Only Brown Eyes seems to have knowledge of what brought them to their present circumstances, but she’s unable to communicate it.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Eddie and Chris Borey fails to live up to the juiciness of the original premise, lacking meaningful character development and teasing out its unveiling of its mysterious plot elements in dull, plodding fashion. Making awkward use of flashbacks and devolving into familiar territory involving ominous medical experiments and, yes, zombies, the film increasingly relies on the sort of cheap scares endemic to such mediocre genre efforts. One can at least be grateful that it doesn’t employ the tired found-footage style of the director’s previous effort, Apollo 18.
Copley, so arresting in such films as District 9 and Elysium, struggles here with both his American accent and everyman persona, but manages to be compelling nonetheless. The same can’t be said of the supporting players, although their archetypal characters admittedly provide little opportunity for nuance.
Production: Atlas Entertainment
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Josie Ho, Joseph Morgan, Erin Richards, Max Wrottesley
Director/editor: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Screenwriters: Eddie Borey, Chris Borey
Producers: William Green, Aaron L. Ginsburg, Michael B. Wunderman
Executive producers: Gyorgy Zoltan Gattyan, Andras Somkuti, Gabor Ferenczy, Conroy Chan, Andrew Ool, Dylan Hale, Lewis, Jon Shestack, Alan G. Glazer, Tamas Csapo
Director of photography: Jose David Montero
Production designer: Attila Digi Kovari
Costume designer: Andrea Flesch
Composer: Juan Navazo
Not rated, 102 min.
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