FEBRUARY 24, 2010
Could Eliza Dushku ever act, or did she just play herself on Buffy/Angel and just sort of coast on that forever? I pondered that while I watched Open Graves, as she once again delivers all of her lines as if she was daring the other person to respond, same as she does in pretty much everything else I can recall seeing her in from the past 10 years (except for her ludicrous performance in The Alphabet Killer, of course). We get it girl, you’re tough. Move on.
She should also move on from doing junk like this, though I guess even she has little love for the project, which sounded good on paper (Jumanji crossed with Final Destination) but is ultimately dull, overly serious, and lacking the visual excitement that either of those films offered. And since it’s been on the shelf for about three years (!), I’m guessing few others had much faith in it either, hence why it ultimately premiered on SyFy and got dumped unceremoniously on DVD six months later, to be found only by OCD folks such as myself who will instantly snatch up any unseen horror movie they see at Blockbuster.
As I mentioned, the film’s plot suggests fun, but the execution leans on the serious side of things. The movie’s basically about a board game that can kill you for real (and as this is a horror movie, it kills you in order of how you were eliminated from the game, in a similar manner that your game character died), which is fucking stupid, but the filmmakers play it like it’s a real, plausible thing, instead of with the general campiness that you find in the Final Destination movies. And the death scenes are all underwhelming as well; not only are they largely bloodless (two are off-screen entirely), but they are often carried out via horrendous CGI creatures (snakes, crabs, dragonflies) that remove any shred of the genuine suspense that the filmmakers were seemingly going for.
Silver lining though - there’s about 10 minutes in the 2nd act that are actually pretty good. We get the film’s two best death scenes (a girl who turns old and suddenly... deflates, I guess?, and then another one gets into a decent car crash and then crawls out of the flaming car, all burnt-toast-y like), and the cop who is investigating the game (and is the only character in the movie I liked) begins to take a more pro-active role.
But then it all falls apart again when Mike Vogel and Dushku play the game again, because if he wins he will get a wish (and, naturally, he wishes for all of this to have never happened). The scene ultimately boils down to a blatant swipe from Labyrinth, where one thing will always lie and the other will tell the truth. I wouldn’t have minded if Vogel actually said “I saw it in Labyrinth!”, but that would require the film to have a sense of (intentional) humor that it does not possess.
And then Dushku turns into a giant dragonfly. Sadly, this doesn’t help matters.
It’s also a movie that has no discernible target audience. It’s got an R rating, but it’s the tamest one I can recall, so gorehounds certainly won’t have any use for it, and intelligent adults (ones not “required” to write a review) probably wouldn’t even get past the first 10 minutes anyway. And kids can’t rent it, and even if they do, they’ll feel gypped that it’s no more explicit than the usual PG-13 junk they’re offered. So who the fuck is this movie for? No one. That’s why it was on the shelf for 3 years.
The DVD has the usual trailer reel and Spanish subtitles, but no real extras. Let’s assume they think Open Graves (originally titled Mamba, after the name of the game they play) speaks for itself.
What say you?