Sharlto Copley is in trouble again. This time he awakens to find himself in an open grave with no recollection of how he got there. His problems are only about to get worse…
Sharlto Copley, fresh from his star-making performance in 2009’s District 9, takes the starring role as an American who awakens in an open grave filled with corpses without any memory of how he got there. Things quickly take a turn for the worst as he discovers a group of people who display similar symptoms of amnesia yet believe he is the bad guy. Without calming their fears totally, he manages to get into their good graces long enough to join them in their search for answers. Why are they here, why are they in this situation, and what is lurking in the woods that surround them.
Director Gonzalo López-Gallego’s film is a competent thriller that works best when it keeps its secrets out of reach. Technically, he accomplishes a great deal of intrigue in the context of the character’s predicament with some neat red herrings to throw us off the scent. However, while we’re left guessing until the twisty conclusion, the same fascination is not found for our band of survivors who remain thinly developed. The ambiguity in their forgotten memories keeps their personalities at bay which is interesting at first but when we’re asked to care for these caricatured souls, we’re less likely to sympathise as things take a gruesome turn.
Copley’s a terrific actor so Lopez-Gallego can rely on him bringing some gravitas to the role. However, even he struggles to elevate his character – the battle-weary American hero who takes it upon himself to beat the odds and save the world – beyond clichéd scripting. I was actually more interested in his companion, and fellow amnesia sufferer, Sharon, played by Welsh actress Erin Richard, who is terrific as the maternal figure within the group.
Perhaps most refreshing is how Open Grave takes a slightly different approach to its conventional genre roots. It has elements of mystery, similar in nature to a film like Buried, where the characters have limited means to discover an understanding behind their predicament in order to survive it, and the apocalypse movie given that the living world seems as distant as the characters’ own memories. It is therefore suitably unpredictable despite its characters hardly vying for your affections. Director Lopez-Gallego should be commended for turning screenwriters Chris and Eddie Borey’s interesting concept but colourless characters into a film worth checking out. Thankfully, he’s accomplished it.