Open Grave (2013)
The film’s first shot is of a man opening his eyes. It’s not long before he discovers, to his obvious horror, that he is lying on a heap of decomposing corpses in the middle of a huge open grave.
As he attempts to pull himself together he is rescued from the pit by a mute woman and soon finds himself in an isolated house filled with suspicious strangers who—like him—can’t remember who they are. Unlike him, however, they have been together for a while and as a result he is treated as a possibly dangerous outsider.
It soon becomes clear that they are part of some far bigger mystery and reluctantly begin to work together in order to find out how they have come to be in this situation.
For much of director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s Open Grave I found myself intrigued by some of the issues that the script (by Chris and Eddie Borey) appeared to be tackling. We were given just enough information that I felt it worthwhile to try to fill in my own blanks. And it seemed to me that much of it pertained to that age-old question of how far we are prepared to go in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. To what depths of human depravity are we willing to sink in the hope of transcendence?
And of course that powerful image of the open grave evoked throughout the film, for me, the consciousness that the 20th and now this 21st Century has led us distinguish ourselves in bloodshed like no other. That open grave seemed to represent not just what we call theHolocaust but every other one as well, whether it be with the Vietnamese or the Serbs or Bosnians or the unfortunates of Sierra Leone. Take your pick from our dozens of conflicts, large and small. Some of the theories of the sixties anthropologist Robert Ardrey in his books African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative may have been discredited by modern science but I’ve always thought that his basic tenet—that we are no better than killer apes—holds true.
As I looked at this rag-tag group of human beings who had presumably once been civilized but were now panic-stricken killers, I found myself reflecting on President Obama, so slick on the surface and yet seemingly intent on being responsible for more bombing than the easier target of Bush Jr. ever dreamed of.
Then there was the theme of our very identities and how we would function if we didn’t have something as basic as a name.
I was wasting my time with all that conjecture, though. I was pretty wide of the mark, that’s for sure; and after a decent build-up I wasn’t expecting such a flat ending.
When push came to shove, what I was imagining was a hell of a lot more interesting than the climax to Open Grave. It is so banal and has been done so often—especially lately—that you will be groaning and cursing the fact that you wasted an hour-and-a-half of your time. I felt as if I had been personally cheated. My ending was definitely better.
It’s a pity, because until it ludicrously over-reached itself, Open Grave had been relatively interesting.
It stars Sharlto Copley (late of Elysium) as the man in the pit; it also features Josie Ho as the mute girl and Erin Richards as Sharon.
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