Open Grave, from director Gonzalo López-Gallego, injects new life into an exhausted genre that will tear your mind to shreds, and enjoy doing it every step of the way. It’s truly an original gem, and a damn good one at that as it quickly unravels a terrifying tale of a man who wakes up in a pit of dead bodies with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The story that soon unfolds weaves its way through a haunting mystery that will have you guessing from the very beginning.
Director López-Gallego starts the film off with one hell of an eye opener as we see Sharlto Copley’s character, John, wake up in a massive grave which is home to hundreds of dead bodies. From there the mystery begins as John struggles to remember who he is and how he ended up in this particularly shitty situation. He soon finds himself amongst a group of wide-eyed people suffering from the same memory loss. At this point in the story you have no idea what you’re in for, but where it leads you is one nasty and twisted roller coaster of a ride.
While the film is being pegged as a thriller, it has just as much a reason to be placed within the horror genre because there are more than a few moments that will chill you straight to the core. The film’s major strength is the fact that it leaves its viewer in the dark, making you ask questions every step of the way. We only ever see what the director wants us to see, and he tells us when to see it. This style of storytelling creates a unique kind of tension that turns its darker moments into a heightened level of horror that we don’t often see. Seeing a soon-to-be dead man bound in a barbed wire fence and screaming for help is horrifying in and of itself. But when you don’t know who he is or how he got there your mind scrambles to pick up the pieces. The moments like that are where Open Grave really shines, and it’s cool as hell to watch.
It’s not an easy way to tell a story, that’s for damn sure, but López-Gallego does a phenomenal job without giving away too much at the wrong time. Throughout the film the characters begin to remember small bits and pieces of their past, but these memories are like a puzzle and you’ve got to decide which pieces go where. You’re not quite sure who’s good or bad, but López-Gallego sure as hell knows and he doesn’t mind dangling it in front of you. Eventually, however, the pieces do begin to come together and you’ll quickly be able to paint the picture on your own as the film winds its way to the finale. And because of this, its last reveal may have less of an impact than I think it intended to have, but it’s quickly coupled with a final scene that is nothing short of spectacular and one you won’t soon forget.
Think of Open Grave as rope in knots. Each passing second the twists and turns of the narrative slowly unravel it until we finally have enough rope to climb out of the very same grave we started in. Gonzalo López-Gallego has crafted a brilliant indie film that will no doubt find a cozy, dark corner inside the horror genre. It starts out simply as an open grave, but where it’s headed is truly the most terrifying part of it all because as they say, no secret can stay buried.