Beware of mysterious strangers in dark alleys, who speak of fulfilling your desires and trying to sell you voodoo dolls. Beware also of antique board games made from the skin and bones of dead witches. But most importantly of all, beware of anyone who recommends this movie.
An unholy mixture of Jumanji and Final Destination, Open Graves may be based around a game of chance, but there are no surprises here.
A group of international surfers in northern Spain inherit a game called Mamba from the aforementioned stranger down a dark alley. Naturally, it’s a cursed boardgame made of the skin and bones of a witch who was skinned alive by the Spanish Inquisition. They don’t know this, of course, until it’s too late. The winner will be granted a wish, but those who lose will meet a rather grisly demise. You can see where this is going.
They inevitably play Mamba on a dark and stormy night, and subsequently start being bumped off one by one in the manner in which they lost the game. One person lucks out with a snake-themed card, for example, and then is predictably killed by a snake later on. Think Snakes and Ladders, without the ladders but with lots of poorly rendered CGI snakes.
To call any of the cast ‘characters’ would be too kind. Mike Vogel stars as Jason, an American surfer and grad-student who starts the game and then must figure out a way to save his friends, opposite fellow American Erica (Eliza Dushku), a ‘Goth in a wetsuit’ who lives in a lighthouse. Dushku at least has some natural charisma; Vogel is out-acted by the dice. The rest of the cast is populated by equally vapid, painfully stupid stereotypes that are basically just gory deaths waiting to happen.
The Final Destination series, if nothing else, at least boasts some creative and unusual ways of killing off its cast members, even after four movies. The deaths here aren’t nearly as inspired. One unfortunate character is pushed off a cliff by a dragonfly of all things (where he is at least finished off by something a tad more frightening). Another person meets their fate in a car accident remarkably similar to one in Final Destination 2.
Open Graves‘ gravest problem, however (pardon the pun), is that it just isn’t scary. Besides one memorable death scene involving CGI crabs, and a ludicrous ending that’s only scary in a non-intentional way, the most terrifying thing in this movie is the horrendous dialogue. When characters aren’t stating the blatantly obvious, they’re throwing away pointless lines that only serve to reinforce their particular archetype or making jokes that only they find funny.
As undeniably flawed as it is, Open Graves could have been fun, or at least passable. It’s not a terrible concept. It just needed a bit of creative flair. Without it, this is a bland movie in dire need of some self-awareness. Stick to Monopoly. It’s less predictable.
Open Graves is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.