J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Open Grave, Featuring Josie Ho

When it comes to awkward mornings-after, the women of Sex and the City have nothing on this cat. The mystery man comes to in a pit filled with corpses, suffering from a nasty case of amnesia. It will not get any easy for our confused chap in Gonzalo López-Gallego’s Open Grave (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York and is already available on VOD.

Having no idea how he came to be in such a grisly state, the man is understandably alarmed.  However, a silent woman with a deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes throws him a rope.  Searching for his savior, the man who will eventually come to be called Jonah makes his way to an ominous looking country house, where he meets the woman and four other people who also have amnesia. 

Given his gore streaked appearance, suspicion automatically falls on him and he will never really shake it, at least as far as the hot-headed Lukas is concerned.  The mute woman seems to know better, but unfortunately she cannot talk and only writes in her native Chinese.  In rather short order, the strangers will encounter an external threat that ought to bring them together, but naturally has the opposite effect.

Frankly, it is too bad the film tips its hand so early, because the four amnesiacs and mute set-up is an intriguing genre premise.  As it happens, every subsequent revelation turns out to be a let-down.  While the U.S. Military is not directly responsible for their predicament, when America’s uniformed men and women finally arrive, López-Gallego and the Borey Brothers screenwriters, Eddie & Chris, sadly chose to depict them as a pack of thugs, which is both a disappointment and a cliché.

On the plus side, Grave has Hong Kong A-lister Josie Ho as the mute woman. She is tremendously expressive in a role with no dialogue, but a good deal of screen time.  Sharlto Copley (co-star of Neill Blomkamp’s hit District 9 and his career-threatening flop Elysium) is also impressively twitchy and scruffy as Jonah, whereas Thomas Kretschmann takes it somewhat over the top as Lukas, but not horrendously so by genre standards.

Considering its early promise, it is a darned shame Open Grave deflates into such a standard issue storyline.  Still, it is a strong English language (sort of) showcase for Ho (to see her horror chops at their finest, check out Pang Ho-cheung’s Dream Home).  Mostly just a time killer for cult movie fans, Open Grave is only recommended for hardcore fans of Ho and Copley when it opens this Friday (1/3) in New York at the Village East.

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