6.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

Mystery and motives are a big part of today’s cinema, as well as our ability to relate to the characters. So, what happens when majority of this information is withheld from us, for majority of the film? Many movies have attempted to take advantage of this complex form of mystery in the past, and they’ve been met with various amounts of success and failure. Open Grave now tries to fill that void, and does a pretty good job despite some setbacks. Note: This review is filled with varying amounts of spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I recently watched Open Grave twice, start-to-finish, and there are certain aspects that still don’t make sense to me. And that is perfectly fine in this case. The dark tone and unknown history really lends itself to being ambiguous. Besides, when you throw a bunch of amnesiacs into a house, you shouldn’t really expect crystal clear explanations.

Open Grave features Sharlto Copley, of Elysium and District 9 fame (is it obvious that this man enjoys his sci-fi?), and his experience lends itself to this film. From the get-go we aren’t explained very much. Bits and pieces are shown to us through flashbacks, and even then much is left to speculation until the conclusion.

source: Tribeca Film

source: Tribeca Film

The basic gist is that five people awaken one morning (Sharlto’s “Jonah” character waking in a mass grave outside), and have no idea who they are or why they are there. Nobody can explain the aforementioned mass grave either, so needless to say the tensions are pretty high. The characters begin to remember small specifics about themselves however, like Sharon’s medical knowledge and Michael’s proficiency with firearms. Lukas has a thick German accent and can confirm that the others know some foreign languages, but none of them can interpret the mute’s Chinese.

The Good

Nobody trusts anyone. The characters gang up on Jonah in the beginning, but the reality is that nobody can be sure of everyone’s role. This sense of confusion really puts the audience into the character’s shoes and provides a longstanding uncertainty throughout the movie.

The only constant in the situation is the mute Chinese girl, lovingly named Brown Eyes. Even though she can’t write or speak in a common language for the group (more in the Meh section), she exhibits the most compassion for the group members which seems to protect her from the accusations (even more in the Meh section). The film also provides a few outside factors, namely zombie-like infected and a specific calendar date, which gives the movie a sense of urgency.

source: Tribeca Film

source: Tribeca Film

Of course, the infection isn’t quickly explained, so the cast wandered around scared by bodies nailed to trees and such. Hell, if I woke up with the Amnesiac Force 5 and a bunch of bodies were almost stapled to trees around a house with no explanations, I’d be pretty confused and scared too. The imagery was quite graphic as well, with lots of barbed wire and savage cannibalism. Pandorum comes to mind when I think of that, in that nobody really knows what’s going on until it’s too late, although Pandorum had a MUCH happier ending.

The Meh

I’m an avid user of the term “meh” and it accurately describes my feelings about things that, well, could have been better. The biggest disconnect in this film is that nobody really thought to keep any form of log, or anything obvious in the house. Wouldn’t it be standard procedure to leave some kind of revealing info in the open?

They were in the freaking zombie apocalypse, testing a new drug that happened to cause short and long term memory loss, and nobody thought to leave a sticky on the door saying “Hey bros, don’t 4get the cannibal crazies outside XOXO”. They could even have left it with the Asian girl – she might not have been able to read or explain it, but at least that could be a guaranteed way to pass information onto the amnesiacs.

source: Tribeca Film

source: Tribeca Film

Speaking of Brown Eyes, nobody really seemed to challenge the idea that she was mute. “Who is she, how did she know to find Jonah” came up, but in the beginning panic no one seemed to question the idea that maybe she was just faking it? It seemed a little off to me. There could have been a whole bigoted/rivalry dynamic between her and another character, and that idea was instead dropped for more “Herman the German” Lukas versus “Mad Doctor” Jonah.

The ending was also a bit disappointing, in that they actually remembered to write a note, but no one thought to put it in their pockets. The ultimate conclusion just repeats the cycle with Brown Eyes and Jonah, albeit with a lot more mass graves and four less characters.


Open Grave was, for many critics, hard to swallow. Many tried to turn it into a philosophical journey, which is all fine and good for some films, but it doesn’t apply to all. Open Grave emphasized the fear of doubt and uncertainty which we should all be able to identify with. The philosophical and moral bits don’t matter much when you realize that these characters are trying to protect themselves, and in some cases, other members of the group.

Survival was the name of the game in this title, and the race to find more knowledge on the housemates should have taken more priority than some standard third-person viewpoint. In that regard, I enjoyed Open Grave because it set out to entertain and confuse, not because it provided some existential basis for a debate.

What did you think of Open Grave? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Oblivion 2013

Open Grave (2013)


Cast:   , a.o.


Cinematography: José David Montero

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

102 minutes

IMDb | Trailer


  • Anonymous

    Very great review! I found this movie very accurate described the way your portrayed it. I found the movie to be pretty shallow, as if there was almost a plot hole inside the story line. Either way, I still found this movie somewhat entertaining, and will continue to read your reviews!