Thursday, January 28, 2010

Open Graves (2010)

You would think that after so many horror movies, characters would know not to accept gifts/directions/help from creepy locals – especially if the local treated you like a stupid tourist one minute but is overly friendly and generous the next. Well, the dense characters in Open Graves have either never seen a horror movie or are just plain dumb, because they have no problem accepting a cursed board game from a local, even when it’s under suspicious circumstances.

You see, the game, entitled Mamba, is an ancient game made by priests out of the skin and body parts of a condemned witch. Anyone who plays it is subject to the game’s fickle cards, so if you die in the game you die in real life. The winner, though, will have the ability to have his or her wish granted. Of course, the characters don’t exactly know this when they decide to play the game one drunken night, but when they start dropping like flies, they realize that the game is causing their untimely deaths. Then it’s a race against time to try and beat the game…and ultimately cheat death.

I have to give it to Lionsgate, the premise of Open Graves sounded pretty solid on paper and the first few minutes, featuring the torture of the condemned witch and the creation of the Mamba game, had me hooked. From there, though, everything went south…fast. One of the biggest affronts was the “development” (or lack thereof) of the characters. They were basically portrayed as vapid, stupid people who only cared about getting laid, getting drunk and getting high. I know the studio is trying to skew to teen audiences, but c’mon! Just once I’d like to see one of these types of films feature smart, savvy characters. Also, the characters were supposed to be “international surfers” (the film is set in Spain) but never once did I see any surfing going on. I don’t know why writers Bruce A. Taylor and Roderick Taylor decided to stick that into the story, but it was another completely pointless shtick among many other plots holes, like the fact that the game was written in English when it had its origins in the Spanish Inquisition or the lame subplot featuring a desperate detective hunting down the game.

My enjoyment of the film just plummeted after the dumbed-down characters were introduced and I begin to notice all the plot holes. My interest deteriorated even more when I witnessed the poor execution by director Álvaro de Armiñán. Nothing in the direction stood out as making this film memorable. The most memorable thing about it was how close the kill scenes were to the Final Destination films. You know the set up – character enters a room/area where there are a bunch of objects made to look threatening, but the thing that kills him or her comes out of nowhere (like snakes dropping out of the sky…who the hell thought that was a clever idea?). Yup, Open Graves was chock full of these annoying scenes, and since they are so familiar, there was no chance of suspense or scares.

Speaking of the kill scenes, the final straw to this awful film was the horrible CGI they used for the truly ridiculous kills. For example, ridiculousness meets bad CGI animals when one guy gets pushed off a cliff by a firefly (I kid you not – and the firefly is kinda like the mascot for the Mamba game and it reappears throughout the film) and then is eaten by blood-thirsty crabs. Another example would be when another character has black mamba snakes drop out of the sky(!) and chase him through a lumberyard before he succumbs to their venom. Then there is the big “twist” of a finale, which again, is just ludicrous and features CGI on-par with a SyFy release (hey, what-do-you-know, Open Graves WAS released on SyFy!) that just makes you role your eyes and shout to the heavens “WHY?” The only outstanding death in the whole film was when a girl met her end in a fiery car crash and tried to crawl out while her whole body was a mass of charred skin still on fire. Nonetheless, this scene doesn’t make up for the atrociousness of the rest of the film.

Not even a phoned-in performance from Eliza Dushku makes this worth a look. Keep Open Graves closed and let this film rest in peace.

Order it on Amazon!

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