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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Open Graves (2009) - Horror

Open Graves (2009) - Certainly was not expecting the movie to open with scenes of the Spanish inquisition, but nobody expects the Spanish inquisition! Torture and rats and snakes in Spain 1485, a monk is supposed to burn a box but after some strange voices sound, maybe in his head he keeps the box with its dragonfly carvings.

Modern day and the surfing is good, a musical montage of surfing shows us that, opening credits. Erica (Eliza Dushku) is being scoped out by two dudes on the beach. We establish that she is a typical American.

Switch to a man gets a call and will be there in ten minutes, a cop as he arrives on the scene of a body that appears to have been skinned alive. A wheel chaired legless person is seen nearby with the box from 1485.

The two guys from the beach, Jason (Mike Vogel), Tomas (Ethan Rains) and his girlfriend Lisa (Lindsay Caroline Robba) are shopping in the Spanish Market. Jason wanders off and we see dragonfly art as he enters a creepy shop. It is dark with what looks to be occult items. He is interrupted by the store keeper, the same handicapped dude who had the dragonfly box, who explains a voodoo doll. Jason is a skeptic. They banter and then the keeper offers what is in the box.
Jason sits with Lisa and Tomas and explains the box is a game called Mamba. Creepy sounds for us viewers. Now we know it is an evil game thanks for the sound effect director Alvaro de Arminan.

Later that night at the beach party Jason plays with his new game and Erica comes by. She has a throw away line about sometimes flying around. (a witch?) This kind of line is right there with modern film screenwriting, everything is supposed to have a purpose in the screenplay so even this loose banter probably means Eliza is not who she is presented as. When Erica picks up a mamba piece we unexpectedly see the torture scenes from the beginning of the film of the Spanish Inquisition. Of course nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. We learn a bit more about the game, when played the winner get what his heart desires. I am sure later we will also learn the consequences for those who don't win.

Erica wants to play the game, cut with this are scenes with Tomas, Lisa and another girl Elena (Naike Rivelli), where we learn Tomas is playing then both without either really knowing he is all into the game of it. Elena then corners him and gives him a blow job. So a nice little triangle is developed. The problem with this piece of set up is that it never really pays off. Since this will turn into a pretty telegraphed death to the losers gimmick the relationships are never used to any great effect. Tomas the player never gets used in any real way. He never really has to make a choice between the women nor do they ever have to confront him in a way that moves the story forward.
When the power goes out six play the game, Erica, Jason, Tomas, Lisa, Elena, Pablo.

Jason lands on the Open graves space and has to take a card, it reads "If you could see inside you would know what's false or true. Somebody's head burst open but none of it gets on you." Again adequate foreshadowing of a choice Jason must make later in the movie. Here his is still in the game and so we continue knowing there is something for him to do later. Pablo (Boris Martinez) also gets a card, it kicks him out of the game. He goes for beer and considering the card said something about being met by something near the sea, we can guess that Pablo will be victim number one. The card indicates his demise in the game and also lets us know his fate in life, or death in this case. Although this is a decent enough movie this is a weakness. After each person gets kicked out of the game we know that they are going to die and only are waiting to see how creative that death will be.

Cut scenes between game play and Pablo, in the game Miguel (Ander Pardo) gets knocked out with a prediction of venomous kisses. Dragon fly near the cliff where Pablo is taking a piss and he freaks and falls from the cliff. He hangs clinging to the barbed wire fence until it snaps and he falls. The scene was well done here and we believe our boy is done. Back at the house Lisa is knocked out with a saying about the black side of a mirror taking her. Pablo is somewhat alive at the bottom of the cliff, he is wonderfully shown broken on the rocks and then there are some fun effect as but is eaten by crabs.

Elena is knocked out. Cut to the police finding Pablo. Tomas is knocked out and may be buried alive later. A knock at the door and Det. Izar (Gary Piquer) is at the door. The game is on hold because of the death of Pablo. The next day (or several) Pablo is laid to rest.

Erica puts together that the card was sort of what happened to Pablo and tells Jason what she is thinking. They go the lighthouse Erica lives in. She has a bunch of occult books in her bookcase. Hmmm... So she is interested in the occult huh?

Tomas and Lisa arrive at the lumber yard where Miguel has set up a photo shoot for Lisa. Music and photos follow. While the shoot is going, Lisa says she does not feel well and they end. They leave Miguel there where he cleans up. As he walks through the cutting room the power mysteriously goes on. He is creeped out, the black snake that gets him comes from in the cut wood. After the first bite two snakes chase him until the inevitable. So now we see in full swing the problem here. The game makes the losers die, but because of the death of Pablo the game stopped before either Erica or Jason could win or lose. I wonder how we could resolve that. Should you? would you risk your life by going back and playing so you could possible set things right for your friends who have died?

Erica and Jason walk around together getting to like each other more. Musical interlude as they kiss. There is a series of scenes of their bonding. Det Izar checks out our snake bitten Miguel, he says they were Black Mamba snakes. Jason and Erica see the images of Miguel and Pablo in the road and then the are creepy and vanish. Then they learn of Miguels death. Next is a scene where the remaining survivors start connecting the game to the deaths. There is starting to be something more pronounced in the way Det. Izar is pursuing the case. Like he knows about the game and wants to get it. This is a better piece of writing because it is setting up a small but important plot point for the end early and through a character.

Erica and Jason research the game on the Internet and learn that it is made from the bones and skin of a witch from our first scenes of the movie, During the Spanish inquisition. They did not expect it because nobody expects the Spanish inquisition. They learn everything about the game because the Internet knows all. It really is a cliche way to spout exposition, go to the library and read from a book or as we do it today surf the intertubes and read the screen so you can easily explain to the audience the exact history of the game. The question then becomes, Do we need to know this information?

Jason is going to destroy the game with fire but starts bleeding when he threatens the game. Cut to Lisa who is feeling even more ill including losing her hair. In the morning when Thomas wakes she is really old. At the hospital the obvious connection between the game and the kids is amazingly made by Det. Izar. Lisa dies... Elena is freaked by her and takes off saying she is going to Milan. Nice gruesome scene as the doctors try to revive Lisa. She apparently dies of old age that must be tough for a young model.

The three remaining members go in search of the wheel chaired guy Malik (Alex O' Dogherty) They find him with his limbs so he must have won the game before giving it to Jason.

Elena ends up in an improbably car crash with leaking fuel and fire to get it going. She does not make it. Another gruesome death to view. I do have to hand it to them they did not hold back on showing solid effects in the death scenes.

Back at Malek's apartment they learn that Tomas is a dead man while Jason and Erica are off the hook. Jason though wants to finish the game so he can win and wish all damage undone. Det. Izar wants the game and he is willing to kill them for it. While Tomas occupies the cop the other two run off to finish the game. Didn't we already in the first ten minutes figure out how the game worked. Then why did it take our protagonists this long to get there, not only for themselves but speaking it aloud to each other after each death. "It is just like the card in the game." No credit given to the audience when writers Roderick Taylor and Bruce A Taylor write it this way.
Erica and Jason start the game again, while we learn that Erica has no record in Spain, strange for a girl who would have needed a passport to be there. Lets see the build in the writing for this character, there was the early throw away line, then the occult books and then she has been moving Jason back towards playing the game, and finally we learn she is not who she says she is.

Det Izar makes Tomas dig his own grave as a way to try to force Jason to give up the game to him. We learn that Izar lost his wife and child. He wants the game so he can win and get them back. Meanwhile the largest swarm of dragonflies ever is outside the lighthouse. They don't really do anything but bot there are a lot of computerized dragonflies out there.

Erica loses and will be in the ocean in the future. Jason wins the wish and has a final step of choosing a snake sculpture to put his piece in. This scene ties neatly back into his early card in the game and he has a logic problem to solve to actually win. Good thing the directions book was still in the box, in my house we always lost those. So he has to choose between the statue that always lies and the one that always tells the truth, on representing time and the other space. He figures things out and makes his wish. Tomas calls and the Det. Arranges for the game to go to Izar. There is a try by Tomas to get away. Izar kills Tomas.

Now Jason and Erica notice the dragonflies, but amazingly they can leave. Erica now knows she has to die before the game is over and she has to die before the wish can come true. Se heads into the water.

Izar comes for the game gun in hand. He sees something in the water though and leaves with the game. Out of the ocean comes Erica as a dragonfly witch who offers a deal to Jason. She has lead him all this way and now the dragonfly lady is trying to get him to change his wish. He sticks to his guns and his wish is granted. " I wish it was a week ago and we have never played this game." We are treated to scenes from early in the movie where he again goes out to the market and gets the game. A wonderfully evil little ending where they will be stuck in the movies loop forever.
Rating (4.5) Anything 5.0 and above is recommended Skip it on the Zombiegrrlz scale.

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