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Posts Tagged ‘Psychological Horror’

Starry Eyes – 7

January 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast – Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy, Nick Simmons, Maria Olsen

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Women suffering psychological torture to attain what they want in life are a real life tragedy, and it is the basis of horror in Starry Eyes. I can’t think of many horror films involving an actor in a film, so this idea is unique in a day where genre fans are begging for something “new”. On top of this, the film dabbles into the cult sub-genre. Writing/directing duo Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch, Widmyer’s employer, who happens to be famed author Chuck Paluhniuk, played a heavy role in helping the filmmakers attain the financial support they needed to make the film, which winds up as one of 2014’s most unique.

Alex Essoe stars as Sarah, an optimistic yet severely struggling actress desperate for her big break. When she finally succeeds at an audition for a major studio, she discovers the heinous secret behind the Hollywood elites she wishes to join.

The story begins with a strong emphasis on the struggle Sarah faces as she pursues her dream to become an actress. She works a dead-end job as a waitress for a lowly restaurant and a loser of a boss. In her free time she attends casting calls and the end result is usually the same – she never gets called. It is obvious she has talent, but the only person who is taking notice to it is…herself. Now when I say she “desires” to be an actress, I mean that in the most extreme way possible. After failed casting calls she makes drastic, psychotic decisions that leave her physically maimed. She finally gets her break though, when a notable studio gives her a shot after taking notice to her drive and determination. The casting directors are very odd, but don’t be turned off by them right away – their mannerisms serve a purpose. When she receives a second call back from the company her audition takes a more drastic turn than the first, and things begin to get fishy as I detected that something was very wrong. It isn’t until the 31st minute of the film when we start to get an idea behind what is going on with her auditions and the shady figures behind them. Without giving too much away, I can only say that there is a daunting secret behind how the Hollywood elites achieved their stardom, and Sarah has a decision to make. She can turn them down and keep struggling, or she can give in and pay her dues. I don’t think I am spoiling anything in saying that she chooses the latter.

The story begins a bit slow but you should still find yourself engaged thanks to the hell that Alex puts herself through. Basically, her torture is your entertainment. The first act is all development, and the second act is where I felt like the film started to lose me. The action is there, but for me it was unlikable. Alex begins to experience extreme changes in her persona and physical appearance, and her friends are taking the brunt of it. She deteriorates her relationships with those who have stood by her in her quest for stardom, and for no obvious reason (at the time). The second act left me thinking that I had maybe made a mistake in thinking this would be a good effort, but the third act changed all that. It is during the third act where the psychological horror becomes physical, and boy does it reach extreme levels. It is during this act that the first kill hits the screen, a whole 78 minutes into the experience. Trust me when I say this about the kill and the subsequent kills, they are worth the wait. It is not often that a third act is so good that it pretty much makes up for the rest of the film, but I believe that is the case here with Starry Eyes. The horror that erupted in this final act left me in awe, and to top it off the film’s climax includes a revelation that I did not see coming.

The directors did a fair job executing this film, with their talent showing during the awesome third act. They get things started pretty well, giving us gloomy atmosphere and proper “odd” execution of the quirky characters seen in the first act. Actress Alex Essoe gave a tremendous performance as Sarah, going from one emotional extreme to the other and delivering some of the best kills I have seen this year. If it were not for her incredible performance early on I am not sure I would have been as into the flick as I was, so she deserves a lot of credit for that. The directors definitely left their mark on the genre this year with the final act thanks to their execution of the kills. These kill sequences were brutal, shot in full-frontal fashion, drawn out to keep you squirming, and they come via live-action effects…which means you get some great gore. Hopefully these directors stick around and maintain the horror seen in this effort.

Overall, Starry Eyes is an incredible experience that I suggest to those who want to see something unique and brutal. Keep in mind that it may try your patience at first, but the payoff is well worth the wait.

Rating: 7/10

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Hannibal – 7

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Ridley Scott

Cast – Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Zeljko Ivanek, Hazelle Goodman, David Andrews, Francis Guinan

Release Year – 2001

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, it surprised me that Hannibal was released an entire decade later. Typically sequels are released with the original still fresh in our minds, but I suppose Anthony Hopkins was so darn good in his Oscar-winning performances that filmmakers thought they could cash in on him once again. This time, Hannibal gives Lecter much more screen time and continues the manhunt with a new lead portraying Clarive Starling. It was never going to be as good as its famed predecessor, but this effort is sure to please those who want more of Dr. Lecter’s charismatic mayhem.

With Hannibal Lecter living in exile, the once esteemed FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling is now treated as a disgrace after a colleague causes significant casualties in a botched raid. With the agency railroading her to save face, Dr. Lecter reaches out to Clarice, which in turn makes him a target for a powerful victim of his seeking vengeance.

Just by looking at the credited cast and filmmakers you would expect this to be a tremendous effort. It comes directed by Ridley Scott, who at the time was still reeling in praise for Gladiator. Co-writer Steven Zaillian adapted Shindler’s List – enough said. Lastly, the cast consists of Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Ray Liotta. With names like these you would assume this would be an Oscar contender, but it’s not. In fact I would not even say this is the best in the series, as I enjoyed prequel Red Dragon more. While it may seem like I am dogging the film I promise you I am not, I just…expected better. I expected greatness and was instead treated to “good”.

The film takes off with Clarice Starling’s action-packed fail of a suspect apprehension. It’s not her fault, but the good ole boys she works will don’t mind watching a natural over-achiever, who happens to be female, fall from grace. Much of the first act focuses on Clarice’s troubles, but 24 minutes in we get our first look at the devil of her past, Hannibal. After reaching out to her with a perfume-laced letter, he appears via a surveillance video from a store in Italy. At the 30 minute mark he finally makes his on-screen appearance, when a police detective makes contact with him. To further trouble Clarice’s attempt to bring Hannibal to justice, the detective intrudes on the investigation so that he can claim the 3 million dollar reward for Lecter’s capture. All of this attention brings the eccentric Mason Verger into the game. Verger is a former victim / lover of Hannibal the Cannibal, and his grotesque physical appearance is proof of that. Verger wants his revenge and he will pay handsomely for it. There are so many different elements going on in this film, and they all lead to Lecter. Clarice, dealing with the consequences of Special Agent Paul Krendler’s accusations of wrongdoing, wants him captured the right way. The Italian Inspector, Rinaldo Pazzi, wants the reward money for himself, and Verger is in cahoots with the inspector to have Lecter assassinated by Verger’s hired goons. Despite of the extreme odds against him, Lecter is on top of his game and gives everyone one hell of a fight.

There is plenty of horror written into the film, and unlike The Silence of the Lambs, we get to experience Hannibal commit several murders first-hand. These are not tame murders either, but torturous slow deaths that ridicule the victim as much as they cause physical pain. This effort gives us more of the Hannibal the Cannibal spoken of earlier in the series, and I was glad to see what I had been missing. The horror, first present about half way into the film (58 minutes), never relents and continues until the film’s final sequence that will leave some of you shying away from the screen in disgust.

Director Ridley Scott did very well with this effort, although I feel that I have been hard on him. He directed some of the greatest films all time, including Alien – one of the best horror films ever, so naturally I expected him to exceed what Jonathan Demme did with The Silence of the Lambs. He did not, but he did expand on the horror and I believe that is what matters most. Live gore was employed during the kill sequences, which included a kill that left a victim’s innards exposed for screaming spectators to see. The kills are full-frontal and Scott, along with the film’s two writers, did not why away from the violence. You would expect good performances from the notable actors involved, and to no surprise their performances were top notch. Obviously Anthony Hopkins stole the show, with Gary Oldman stealing thunder from Julianne Moore. Ray Liotta’s role was miniscule but he did well at portraying an asshole. I enjoyed the atmosphere here but the 10-year difference displayed the difference in film quality. The graininess from The Silence of the Lambs is gone and we are instead treated to a crisper image. This may seem minimal, but it did have a direct effect on the atmosphere. Thankfully, Scott still delivered a moody, dark, shadowy feel that makes this especially fun to watch with the lights off, which you should already be doing anyway with horror films.

Overall, Hannibal is a solid sequel to one of the most notable horror films there is. While high expectations will most likely not be met, this effort makes up for any shortcomings with great horror, awesome performances, and an engaging story that comes very well written and directed.

Rating: 7/10

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Honeymoon – 7

September 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Leigh Janiak

Cast – Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I became very excited for Honeymoon when Magnet Releasing shared the film’s initial trailer. It looked like a dramatic thriller at first, which had me uninterested, then they added a horrific twist that had left me hooked on giving this a watch. From first-time filmmaker Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon proved to be a tense dramatic thriller whose horror grows insidiously until the film’s daunting climax. You won’t find a lot of jolts or scares here, yet much to my surprise Janiak still found ways to make this one of the most tense horror films I have seen this year.

When young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway; Cockneys vs. Zombies, “Penny Dreadfull”) and Bea (Rose Leslie; “Game of Thrones”) travel to a remote lakeside home to celebrate their honeymoon, they eagerly anticipate the upcoming joys of their intimate getaway. Their bliss is short-lived though when Bea goes missing late one night, leading Michael on a frantic search for his new wife. He eventually finds her in the woods, naked and disoriented, with no obvious evidence to how she got there or what she was doing. Bea shrugs off the ordeal as sleepwalking, but Paul knows that something very bad happened to his wife that night…and it was not sleepwalking. With Bea’s behavior growing increasingly peculiar and her body undergoing unexplained injuries, their romance soon gives way to terror.

First-time writers Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei do a very good job beginning the film with heavy development of our two leads. With very few characters in the story it is obvious that this film is a character-driven effort, and they do almost too good of a job immersing us into their very intimate getaway. The chemistry between Michael and Bea is amazing and they seem like a couple that cannot be broken, but of course things will change when an unstoppable adversary makes its mark. 17 minutes into the film the very hint of conflict arises when they make their way into town for some food. They notice something very odd with the two folks they run into, but they think little of it and mind their business. Little do they know, they will soon find themselves in the same situation. At the 23 minute mark Michael wakes up to notice that Bea is missing, and after a long and frantic search he finds her, but his worries are only beginning. I applaud the writers for making Michael’s search for Bea a burning one that took four minutes of screen time. This long and drawn out sequence was highly tense and did not have to show much to freak the viewer.

It is after this ordeal that the bulk of the conflict begins to arise. It is obvious that Bea is not herself after the incident in the woods. She can’t complete everyday tasks like making coffee or her signature French toast, and even basic details about her relationship with the man of her dreams are hard for her to remember. The once highly sexual woman is also distant and very insecure with her body – which is now adorned with unexplainable abrasions and bleeding. As the film goes on more and more developments arise, but for the most part we have no clue what is going on until the very end of the film. Personally I enjoy stories like this because they keep us just as confused as the protagonist, who in this case is Michael. We know what he knows and we don’t know what he doesn’t know, and that tactic allows us to place ourselves in his shoes. This is where most of the horror derives from, making this a psychological horror flick with a hint of something else that I cannot say without spoilers. We get our first hint at the other element of horror 63 minutes into the flick, and the closing sequence should fill you in on the rest. Personally, I wanted more from this latter element and felt like it would have made this a scarier film, but nonetheless the writers succeeded at what they set out to do.

This is also Leigh Janiak’s first time directing, and she does an amazing job of bringing her story to life. If you ask me, the direction is what really makes this film great. She does a great job of selling us the characters, and their acting performances are also worthy of high remarks. Michael and Bea are pushed to emotional extremes and actors Harry Treadaway and Rosie Leslie are superb. Janiak also provides immense atmosphere that played a heavy role in the film’s creepier scenes. There are times when something as simple as a bright white light or a crackling within the woods were giving me chills, and I credit solid direction for that.

Overall, Honeymoon is a solid dramatic horror thriller that is sold with an interesting story and great character performances. You won’t find much tangible horror here. Instead, the horror stems from what you don’t know and what you can’t see, and I know some of you out there highly appreciate that. Give this a watch if you do.

Rating: 7/10

Proxy – 6

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Zack Parker

Cast – Joe Swanberg, Kristina Klebe, Alexa Havins, Alexia Rasmussen, Erika Hoveland

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I took my time getting to Proxy because I was not sure if it contained enough horror for a review. Joe Swanberg’s name being attached to the film had me thinking it just might, as he is known these days for his roles in You’re Next, The Sacrament, V/H/S, and A Horrible Way to Die. If anything, I figured this would be a dramatic experience with the horror stemming from the actions of the film’s characters and not those of an unstoppable force, and that was exactly the case. Proxy gives us an interesting tale that unique for the convoluted genre, but it is lackluster at times and definitely not worthy of a two-hour runtime.

In this experience we follow the lives of three parents who have all experienced the loss of a child. Deception brings them together, and a short supply of sanity tears them apart.

The film takes off establishing Esther, a young woman near the end of her pregnancy. It is obvious that this “blessing” is more of a curse to Esther, and her wish for getting the pregnancy “over with” comes true when she is brutally attacked on her way home by a hooded figure. She loses the baby and takes the opportunity to join a support group, where she meets Melanie. Melanie has also experienced a great loss, or so she claims. Meeting Melanie is liberating for Esther, but soon enough it proves to be the worst thing to ever happen to her.

Esther and Melanie’s relationship takes Esther to the edge of her sanity and forces her to make drastic decisions that have a very negative impact on Melanie’s life. Melanie is not without blame though, as she in a sense “opened the door” to such actions, and Melanie’s husband Patrick is the one hit hardest despite having no blame. The story relies heavily on its characters to sell the horror and tension, throwing in a few smaller roles to keep the tension up top. I cannot say that this is a devout horror film but I can see why it has been mentioned and reviewed in other horror sites. The title Proxy is up to debate, but if I had to guess I would assume it has to do with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, which would explain some of the insane antics involved with Melanie’s character. It really is hard to give away more info without ruining some of the film’s revelations, so I will stop there.

Co-writer Zack Parker does a good job executing the film and I feel that is the biggest reason why I stayed engaged during this two-hour experience. He sets the mood early on and sucks you in with the brutality of the opening conflict. The actors provide good performances, with our three main acting protagonists stealing the show while antagonist actor Kristina Klebe was portrayed in cliché fashion. Parker does a good job of bringing tension to the screen and he does so even when the story does not show very much. It is because of scenes like this that I feel Proxy could contend as a “horror” flick, but no scene in the film is better than the slo-mo shotgun death. You HAVE to see that.

Overall, Proxy is an OK experience if you can sit through a film heavy in dramatics. The character play is what sells this piece and while it has its positive moments it is a slight bore overall that will leave you scratching your head in the end.

Rating: 6/10

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Beneath (2014) – 5


Director – Ben Ketai

Cast – Brent Briscoe, Kurt Caceres, Eric Etebari, Jeff Fahey, Joey Kern, Kelly Noonan, Rene Rivera, David Shackelford, Mark L. Young

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Much like Circus of the Dead, I was able to screen this film at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2014 in Dallas. It was Friday, the first day of the convention, and despite my lack of sleep I was very excited for this midnight showing. The story seemed like an awesome one that consisted of a nowhere-to-run scenario, which always peaks my interest. Beneath started off well, and the positives are numerous. The atmosphere is great, the cinematography is good, and the acting performances were better than expected. Unfortunately, the story is where the film falters. While fairly interesting overall, the end result is a lackluster experience that was very hard to watch while running on little sleep.

Based on “true events”, a crew of coal miners become trapped hundreds of feet below ground after an unfortunate collapse. With the air growing toxic and oxygen levels depleting, the miners begin a maniacal descent into madness as time keeps running out.

I was excited walking into Beneath. After a two hour nap between film screenings I wanted to make sure I was wide awake and at least somewhat rested for what I assumed would be a slow film at first, eventually kicking us in the face to make it worth the wait. This was the case with The Descent, but sadly that was not really the case with Beneath. The film starts off well, revealing to us that it is George Marsh (Jeff Fahey)’s final day on the job after over 30 years of working the mines. His daughter decides to tag along for this final day so she can see the hard work her father endured to provide for the family, so when tragedy strikes it hits even harder for George. It does not take long for the collapse to occur and seal the miners 600 feet underground, and even with an oxygen fueled emergency bunker we see paranoia kicking in. I saw this story as a blend of The Descent and Session 9. What’s funny is both of those films are great horror flicks, and Beneath is not. It borrows from The Descent in trapping our protagonists in a life or death / nowhere to run scenario where the underground landscape is the initial danger, and it taps into Session 9 in having the miners lose their bearings and begin suffering the effects of sudden mental instability due to extreme duress. There are plenty of kills to potentially enjoy, however some of them occur offscreen and only show us the after effect. The story attempts to bring much psychological terror to the screen as well, and while I applaud the ambition I was sorry to see that the horror was rarely worthwhile. I believe you can make a good film about miners going crazy, especially given the number of pickaxes lying around, but Beneath is not that good film. Had the flick gone the route of The Descent and given us creature horror instead I feel the experience would have been much better and a lot scarier. But hey, maybe I can capitalize on the idea in the future.

Director Ben Ketai does an OK job with Beneath, his sophomore effort. He sucks us in right away with his awesome atmosphere and the positive sets used for the underground collapse. I enjoyed the look of the safety bunker and the false hope it provided, as well as the claustrophobic feel echoing throughout the many uncharted tunnels and dark corners. With this being a psychological horror film you should expect good performances, and for the most part I was impressed with what the actors had to offer. These characters go through emotional extremes, from enjoying their work to severe distress over the impending doom, and each actor sold their role without a single one negatively effecting the experience. As for the horror, it was decent at times and unfulfilling at times. We get a few decent chills and maybe one good scare, but the more the horror hit the screen the more I disliked the bombardment of cheap cliches in a film that could have been much better.

Overall, Beneath is a film with much potential thanks to its great atmosphere and solid acting performances. Sadly, the horror does not match up to the film’s awesome visuals nor take advantage of them. Beneath is not a bad film, it just is not very interesting. It may appease some of those who need a quick fix without asking much, but if that is the case there are better efforts, like The Descent and Session 9.

Rating: 5/10

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Here Comes the Devil – 7

February 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Cast – Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia, Michele Garcia, David Arturo Cabezud, Giancarlo Ruiz

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Here Comes the Devil was one of the most hyped and sought-after horror films of 2013. After sweeping the horror awards at Austin’s Fantastic Fest 2012 for Best Picture / Screenplay / Director / Actor / Actress this was a film I, like most others in the genre, absolutely had to see. After viewing this piece I can say that it is definitely one of the better horror films of 2013, but I do not feel it is quite worth the hype. Nonetheless, Here Comes the Devil is a flick I am glad I watched and I am glad to see director Adrian Garcia Bogliano become a growing force in the genre.

While vacationing in Tijuana, Felix and Sol’s two young children go missing while exploring a large cave-ridden hillside. Fear and tension grip the couple, but their worries turn to elation when their kids inexplicably return the following day. Their children seem different and the couple believes stress is to blame, but they will soon learn that their children are not who they used to be and something sinister has come home with them.

This storyline really grabs my attention. I love that it has to do with a place unfamiliar to the family, it has to do with their children, and the origin of the horror is supernatural. Once I got into the film I realized the story would come with a strong sexual element as well. Bogliano’s film opens with a nude lesbian tryst that is interrupted by the panicked knocking of the front door, and bloody results ensue. At first I was left wondering what purpose this scene would serve, and soon enough I started to catch on. After the opening sequence we follow the vacationing family enjoying their stay in Tijuana, despite a weird encounter with a strange local after their young daughter hits puberty and “becomes” a woman. It wasn’t until the children disappear on the hill while their parents are messing around (sexually) in the car that I was sure beyond all doubt that sex would be the root of evil in this flick. If you have seen the film Antichrist then this scene should remind you of its infamous opening sequence. From then on out we watch the couple’s panic and then joy as their children return safe from the hill after an overnight stay, but it is obvious that whatever they experienced on the hill was of ill-nature. According to the locals the hill harbors a supernatural presence, and it seems that it is not a coincidence that the childrens’ disappearance coincided with an earthquake on the hill. After returning home Felix and Sol begin to experience strange and unexplainable events going on around the home, and as expected only one parent believes something is wrong while the other is searching for a logical explanation. Soon enough the horror intensifies, and the most shocking scenes occur when Sol’s relative babysits the children and learns first-hand what they are capable of. The film’s twists and turns are interesting and we ourselves are kept somewhat in the dark over what happened to the children, but the story’s tremendous climax should take care of that.

While I enjoyed this story overall and found it highly engaging, I feel that it had quite a few faults. There are still many unanswered questions, and while some may argue that this allows for the viewer to engage in discussion I felt that the story’s lack of clarification regarding certain events held back what could have been an even better story. At times it really felt like Bogliano was unsure of what type of story he was trying to give us. The film is a slow-burner that also tries to be a supernatural thrillfest and ultimately fails at both. Earlier I mentioned the film’s highly noticeable use of sex as the source of evil in the film, and while we get a few more instances of sex playing a role I felt that if Bogliano wanted to use sex as such a crutch he should have focused on it more instead of teasing us with it. Little things like these added up and left me feeling like the story was a bit dry and lackluster, and this is why I felt like the flick was not worth the hype. I love the story as a whole, but as a 97 minute experience there is a lot missing.

Bogliano’s direction is pretty good, giving us excellent atmosphere and delivering good tension. He gives us a modern feel that also bleeds 70s-esque psychological horror, much like Ti West’s The House of the Devil. There is a heavy sense of dread that prevails throughout pretty much the entire film and this keeps the viewer at attention, knowing that the horror can hit at any time. His execution of the characters is pretty basic, with the children coming off as quite and distant, yet displaying this look and interaction with each other that indicates that they are obviously hiding something. When the horror hits supreme levels inside the home we are shown the best he has to offer, and while it was mostly effective at delivering a chill or two I was expecting better. I will say that my favorite scene was not of the children’s mischief when their parents are sleeping, but the scene involving what happened to the babysitter. This sequence was expertly executed and managed to freak me out a bit despite it being told after the fact – a sign of good atmosphere, storytelling, and execution.

Overall, Here Comes the Devil is a haunting experience that is deserving of your time. Bogliano’s direction is good and as a result we are given one of the better horror films of 2013 and a few good chills for the viewer to enjoy. The story is an interesting one overall that only suffers a few faults that other viewers may not even have a problem with, and may even find preferable. While I still believe this experience is a bit over-hyped, it is definitely one I suggest you check out yourself.

Rating: 7/10

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Open Grave – 7

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Director – Gonzalo López-Gallego

Cast – Sharlto Copley, Joseph Morgan, Thomas Kretschmann, Erin Richards, Josie Ho, Max Wrottesley

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I had not heard anything about Open Grave until I saw a poster with the ever-awesome Sharlto Copley’s name in big letters, and based on that I knew I had to give this a watch. It was great seeing Copley in the horror/sci-fi (mostly sci-fi) flick District 9, but I was very excited to see him and what he could do in a horror film that does not bend genres. Coming from Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, I was not sure of what to expect given I was disappointed with his previous film, Apollo 18, but he delivered this time and so did the story. Filled with constant twists and turns that keep the viewer engaged, the Borey brothers give us one of the best horror stories I have seen in a long time. Coupled with another great performance from Sharlto Copley, Open Grave will surely be one of the best horror films of 2014.

A man (Copley) wakes up in a massive grave filled with bodies of the recently deceased. He has no memory of who he is or how he got there, and neither do the terrified strangers he comes in contact with. Suspicions are high and tensions arise as they try to piece together clues about their identities, but when they uncover a threat more vicious than themselves they must race against time to figure out what brought them all together.

Open Grave starts off in epic fashion, leaving us feeling the same confusion and paranoia as Copley’s character. The rest of the cast is introduced soon after with them also in the same boat of amnesia, making the first act a very engaging one. While the characters try desperately to remember who they are, why there are there, and how they possibly know each other, there is one lingering question they are afraid to find the answer to; why is there a massive open grave? While the grave is creepy there is death present all around, with numerous corpses tied to trees after obviously suffering agonizing pain before a much-desired death. The story slows in the second act and revelations arise, filling in the blanks over who is who and why they are there. When the third act hits the intensity increases and one last revelation leaves the viewer in awe over what was really going on in the solemn forest plagued with death. I really enjoyed how creative this story is and how it took its time developing. You may feel like you know what is going on, but writers Chris and Eddie Borey throw you for a loop again and again.

Gallegos’ direction is solid and it is great to see him return to the horror genre with a better film this time. He sets things straight and takes control from the get-go, giving us an awesome intro that ends in pretty shocking fashion when you see the massive grave our lead is trying to climb out of. The tension and paranoia of the first act is well executed and he manages to keep this feeling throughout the film. Acting performances help sell this character conflict and while everyone does well you already know that Sharlto Copley steals the show with another solid performance to add to his resume. We see some OK kills and decent gore, but this flick really is not about that. Most of said horror comes from the corpses adorning the land and the film’s real horror is character related. Does that mean there are no scares? No, there are definitely some scares and obviously with all of the storyline’s revelations there is more to the story than the character horror.

Overall, Open Grave is a great horror film that I recommend to all. The selling point may be its inclusion of the popular Sharlto Copley, but the film has even more to offer thanks to good direction and a pretty creative, mentally engaging story.

Rating: 7/10

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