And you thought Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms had it bad!
by Rob Rector
The Hangover leads have nothing on Sharlto Copley, who, in the first scene of Open Grave, awakens in a pit of dead bodies without a clue as to who he is and how he got there.
Director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego has progressed much since his previous effort, the abysmal “found-footage” flick Apollo 18, which gave us killer moon rocks. He establishes a healthy sense of foreboding, but sadly it is not one he can sustain throughout the film’s runtime. The amnesiac-as-protagonist is nothing new to screenplays, with Christopher Nolan’s Memento still serving as the granddaddy of the sub-genre.
After being helped out of his hell-hole, Copley’s character is grouped with a bunch of other strangers who must also piece together their past in a remote cabin in the woods. They realize that “something” will happen in the days ahead, but they are unsure as to what. This can be a a thrilling premise, as it gives the audience the opportunity for armchair sleuthing, looking for clues, tidbits and traces of just what led to their disastrous state of affairs.
As the film begins, we get the sense that we are in for a wild ride, with crisp cinematography, an atmospheric score and a pall of dread throughout. But as the layers begin to peel back, we realize that Open Grave is really little more than an onion bloom.
The real problem is that a sense of dread is really all that is built, with little payoff. Scenes blur into the next rather matter-of-factly, with no real “twist” or “curve” that one generally comes to anticipate with such a picture.
It’s certainly no fault of Copley, who balances his role with ambiguity, leaving us wondering just whose side he’s on. The rest of the cast perform well, with no other real standout worth mentioning, as it all crumbles with its sense of pacing. Stretches of Open Grave slow to a crawl, and there are certain plot machinations that seem merely perfunctory and don’t contribute to the overall narrative.
Open Grave would make a fine time-waster as a background film, but it never quite measures up to its bookended opening and closing shots that are far more powerful than anything that happens between them.