I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t think much of post-apocalyptic dramas that include zombies. I mean, who’s going to root for the zombies in any battle between them and humans? I find human conflict so much more intriguing and dangerous, whether in fiction or film. Maybe it’s because zombies are so… so… mindless… at least in most of the dramas that I’ve seen. When I rented the 2013 film Open Grave, nothing in its description mentioned “zombies,” and the film never uses that word — not even once.
Instead, the closest any of the characters come to an explanation of the post-apocalyptic world in Open Grave is “plague,” specifically, “the plague that cast the world into darkness,” and even that line comes near the end of the film. Call me intrigued-against-my-will if you wish, but a “plague that cast the world into darkness” and masses of dead bodies in open graves with no explanation — even to the characters in the film — is much more perplexing than plain old zombies. Open Grave is one of the few “zombie-like” films that earns kudos from me.
Open Grave begins with an amnesiac guy who awakes in an open grave, surrounded by countless dead bodies. As you can imagine, he’s totally freaked out, and not just because he can’t remember how he got there. I mean, there are hundreds of dead bodies in this mass grave, and he’s in there with them. Yeah, how’s that for a gripping start?
Our amnesiac manages to get out of the grave with help from a mysterious woman who doesn’t speak. He follows the Mute (Josie Ho) to a house, where he eventually learns that his name is probably John (Sharlto Copley). Once at the house, John meets other victims, most of whom have some degree of amnesia, among them Lukas (Thomas Kretschmann, below L), who has some anger issues, and Nathan (Joseph Morgan, below R), who is terribly scared of everything,
and Sharon (Erin Richards), who seems attracted to John, and who may have had a previous relationship with him.
Most of the people in the house are really good at using weapons, which seem to be stored all over the place, and that scares just about every single one of them. Even more scary, however, is a calendar with the 18th marked, and which the Mute points out, frantically and repeatedly. Since the calendar is marked with Xs almost to the 18th, which is only two days away, John and the others realize that something very important — even ominous — must be happening on that date.
So there’s that open mass grave, amnesia that’s affecting everyone, and now some scary deadline that only the Mute seems to understand… spookiness to the max.
Though some of the amnesiacs have this feeling that they know some of the others, they’re not sure, so nobody feels safe. When they begin to explore the surrounding countryside, they find creepy “scarecrows” tied to or hanging from trees, and, as you can imagine, that makes them more stressed.
When they find a guy trapped in a barbed-wire fence, calling for help, things go bad quickly, and the members of the group turn on each other in their desperation to survive and in their fear of what’s happened, which they can’t even remember.
They can’t shake the feeling that there’s some “big picture” they seem to have forgotten, and that something really super-monstrously big — like bigger than BIG — is going to happen in a couple of days, and not just because of that calendar with all the days marked off and with the 18th circled. They need to regain their memories quicker than quick if they’re going to discover why the 18th is so important to their survival and to their discovering why there are mass open graves filled with dead bodies.
Are those dead bodies in the open grave the result of an attack? Of a plague? Of mass murder? Of vicious and unethical medical experimentation? Was John involved in that unethical medical experimentation? Were Sharon and the others helping him, or trying to stop him?
I don’t know, and I’ve seen the film more than once.
You watch Open Grave, and let me know what you think.
One of the best post-apocalypse movies ever made, Open Grave is available for purchase or rent ($2.99-3.99) on Amazon, on YouTube, on iTunes, on Vudu, and more.
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