What do you get when you mix the story outlines of Final Destination with Jumanji? Álvaro de Armiñán makes his horror directorial debut with Open Graves set for UK release on DVD February 15. The film stars the gorgeous Eliza Dushku who plays Erica, the love interest to Jason, played by the sexy ex-Levi's model Mike Vogel. Open Graves is set in Spain and based around a group of international surfers who come into contact with an ancient artifact called Mamba.
Jason (Mike Vogel) comes into possession of the ancient board game when he stumbles upon an offbeat merchant down a side alley. After a drunken, fun-filled night, the mixed group of travelers decide to show interest in the board game and play it for a few laughs. The ancient board, made from the skin and bones of a witch, has sealed their fate upon the roll of the die. The group of hot young surfers are picked off one by one and their gruesome fate awaits. Erica and Jason soon come to establish that they must unravel the events already set in motion by the game. They are made to fight the curse of the Mamba to bring a stop to the demonic events but they race against the clock.
Open Graves opens with a storyline that has great potential. The viewers are taken back to torturous times in the 15th century and we are shown the gruesome demise of the witch whose skin and bones the board was created from. It then throws us into the present day in the northwest of Spain, where an international mix of attractive surfers occupy their time with waves and beach parties.
Eliza Dushku, also known for her roles in Buffy and the hit series Dollhouse, fits the attractive lead female role and this gives any adoring fan reason to view the film. She plays the part to the script and it's unfortunate that it was not written to exploit the true capabilities of a promising actress. Mike Vogel (Cloverfield, Texas Chainsaw Masacre) plays the hot surfer guy as well as it can be played. Again the script lets him down and it's difficult for him or any of the actors to show their full potential. There are several other people introduced briefly into the film who are soon taken out by the game before we can really know who they are. The two other central characters are played by Ethan Rains (Tomas) and Naike Rivelli (Elena). They are good looking enough to be great eye candy but the plot is lacklustre enough that it's difficult to find any reason to become attached to any of the characters.
The film's potential is in the underlying story of the board game's creation. The tale of Open Graves is cut up so much that it's difficult to follow. It does fit the general premise of a horror movie as we do see some scenes that deliver on the bone-crunching type of horror but it's all been done before. The shots of the surfers riding the waves set the theme of a backpackers' holiday and the soundtrack has some good music that assists the feel. There is a small gripe with the editing, which jumps from scene to scene without explanation. It makes the plot hard to follow. There is a sub-character in the film who is wheelchair bound when Jason first meets him. He is the merchant who offers them the board game. There is potential for an interesting sub-plot to develop but we don't hear from him again until later in the film when he suddenly reappears. The explanation for this is quickly explained in his brief scene and that is that. The editing does not assist in creating a smooth story to follow.
The CGI is good enough. It's nothing outstanding but it explains what it needs to. We see a dragonfly throughout the film which seems to be symbolic of the grim reaper but is somewhat random in its reason for being; however, this is supposedly a distinct part of the storyline which falls by the wayside. The black mamba snake also appears in the film several times and it's very apparent that it's born from CGI developers. The lighting in the film is quite good and this gives it a mysterious feel which helps create a somewhat dark mood appropriate to the genre.
Open Graves has real potential and it's lucky to have pulled such actors as Eliza Dushku and Mike Vogel to help push the film along. If you're a fan of an attractive cast, enjoy traveling, and perhaps like to surf then this film could have value. At times, the plot is confusing but if you like to see some gruesome horror amidst an alluring cast set in an ideal holiday location, then this is a film worth viewing.
Icon Home Entertainment has made the film available for purchase via Amazon. Get in a pre-order before the 15 February release date in the UK for a bargain price.