Open Grave opens with one of the most promising sequences I have seen in a long time. John (Sharlto Copley) wakes up, in the middle of a rain storm, in the middle of the night, in a pit full of dead bodies. The entire sequence is disturbing, highlighted by extensive use of sound in regard to John’s bones cracking as he regains consciousness. From here, he wanders to a mansion where he meets several other characters – all of them suffering from amnesia.
After this mighty intro, Open Grave falters, never fully engaging the viewer in its tale. The characters, although strangely in the house together, with no memory, all having mysterious bruises, seem to be overly complacent for the situation they are in. Suspending disbelief, the storyline fails to gain the proper footing, jumping from character to character, as they explore the land around them, looking for evidence as to why, exactly, they are there. When they begin to gather more and more information while discovering various medical experiments on the grounds, the movie is thrown into a clichéd mix of pointing fingers.
This, unfortunately, is what makes up 3/4 of Open Grave – characters in aimless pursuit of each other. A mass open grave is something that has been seen throughout history, most notably in the concentration camps during World War II. Combine that with the medical experimentation results shown in the film and the ending revelations that actually somewhat interesting, and the movie should be downright powerful. Yet, there isn’t enough to pull everything together in between. If the events revealed at the conclusion had been included sooner, perhaps sprinkled throughout, the film would have greatly benefited. In the end, we are left with a spotty narrative, mostly, again, consisting of characters questioning each other.
John’s awakening at the beginning of Open Grave is reminiscent of the storm at the mansion sequence in 28 Days Later. While it’s not nearly as influential, the visuals and sounds make the introduction to the story highly interesting. There are moments within the film throughout that, too, capture a certain eeriness not commonly seen. Although filmed and edited well, Open Grave suffers from lack of grounded substance to carry key scenes like a man discovered trapped in a barbed wire fence that surrounds the grounds.
Described a reverse zombie movie by some, Open Grave could have the makings for a powerful movie that could hold a spot like 28 Days Later with its unique approach. In the end, the slow, lackluster crawl to get from point a to point b simply outweighs the bit of depth the film has.