One of the difficult things about the zombie/plague/apocalypse genre is that there’s very little that hasn’t already been done before, so trying to find a unique take on such a premise is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, the filmmakers behind “Open Grave” have boldly tried to search for it by setting up an intriguing premise that has a man (Sharlto Copley) waking up in a grave filled with bodies and no memory of who he is or how he got there. After being rescued from the pit by a stranger, he finds his way to a nearby house, where he meets up with a group of people who also have no recollection of who they are. Despite first meeting at gunpoint, they eventually band together to investigate what has happened. However, as they proceed, they soon discover that something deeply disturbing has been going on in this house, and that one of them may have been behind it all.
“Open Grave” has the necessary makings of a decent horror film, particularly with its captivating setup, but it’s after the first 20 minutes or so that we find the film already running out of steam as the characters stumble around aimlessly trying to find out what’s going on. In essence, the writers knew how they wanted to open the film, and probably how to end it, but they had no idea what to have happen from one to the other, leading to a film that meanders for a good length of its runtime. Things do begin to pick up towards the end as the mystery deepens and things become a little clearer with every passing minute, but when we finally get to the explanation of what it’s all about, we find a very weak and unsatisfying payoff for what we’ve had to trudge through to get there. What’s more annoying is that, even though everyone in the audience has understood what really happened, they feel the need to spell it out for them just to make absolutely sure that they’ve completely comprehended the ending. They’re fewer things more irritating about cinema than writers treating their viewers like they’re idiots, something that they should have learned in writing school ages ago. The filmmakers behind “Open Grave” may have boldly attempted to tackle this oft-trodden genre, but ultimately they can’t help falling into a pit as large as the one in their story.
“Open Grave” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of somewhat grungy quality. It’s a decently clear picture for the most part, but it does seem a little darker than it should throughout the presentation, which actually helps a little with the atmosphere that the film is trying to create, so it becomes rather fitting. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is loud and clear, giving you dialogue, score, and sound effects in optimal quality. Overall, this release has been given pretty good treatment, allowing for an enjoyable experience in both departments.
Behind the Scenes of Open Grave: A very brief (under four minutes) and superficial featurette that features snippets of interviews with the cast and crew. It’s not very informative, so it’s easily skippable.
“Open Grave” starts off well enough, but soon finds itself as lost and confused as its amnesiac characters. Even if you do make it all the way to the end of the film, you’re left with an ending that is ultimately a major letdown, one that was not worth the meandering trip to get there. With a proper middle act, this could have made for an engaging mystery with viewers on the edge of their seats. Instead, they’re more likely to be laid back and staring at their watches as the minutes slowly tick by.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, Ravenous, Son of God, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.