NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on October 13th, 2020
An Unquiet Grave is a 2020 Horror film that feels more like a drama at times, playing with the idea of grief and coming to terms with it. The film takes place a year after a car crash has taken the life of Jamie’s (Jacob A. Ware) wife and he still hasn’t come to terms with it, but he has found a ritual that he can use to bring her back. He brings his wife’s sister Ava (Christine Nyland) with him to help perform this ritual but Ava soon discovers that she might not actually survive this ritual, and now Jamie will have to deal with the guilt of exchanging Ava’s life for that of his wife.
As a concept, An Unquiet Grave is fascinating, a look at grief in a way that acknowledges that you never truly get over it. The idea that one would do just about anything in order to get a few minutes with someone that they lost is almost a staple of the horror genre, back to the original Monkey’s Paw and beyond. Not coping with death is something Horror excels at and this idea is a good basis for a film. Hell, the idea of someone bringing someone back from the dead who comes back wrong has brought us everything from Frankenstein to the entire 6th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, It’s a tried and tested story and most of the time it works a treat, the foundations of this film are solid in that regard.
It’s also great to see a two-person horror story, it’s very rare to see someone try something like that. There are some movies that might come close, maybe two leads and some extras but this movie just grabbed two actors and allowed them to bounce off each other and these two actually work pretty well together. A part of it is clearly a budgetary issue, one of the actors is also a writer and the fewer actors you need to pay for the better, but for this story, it’s really all that’s needed and it really helps streamline the story. It also helps that the chemistry between the two lead actors is believable and there are times when they really do excel in An Unquiet Grave… such as it’s possible to.
The big problem with An Unquiet Grave is that, even at 75 minutes, it has no energy to it. Due to the lengthy scenes of almost silent goings on, it ends up feeling a bit sluggish at times. There’s long stretches where I genuinely wondered what was going on and, more importantly, why it mattered. While I’m totally behind the idea of An Unquiet Grave, the bulk of the execution is deathly quiet and incredibly slow, relegating everything to quiet slow shots that might be trying to build atmosphere, but it’s an atmosphere that just didn’t seem to work.
This isn’t to say An Unquiet Grave is boring, moments like a big confrontation scene near the end or the bulk of the ritual itself have their moments that genuinely work but they’re surrounded by these lengthy periods of film that are just a slog to get through. These lengthy scenes could’ve been used to create some kind of tension or maybe have something to unnerve the audience but it doesn’t quite get there. Instead it’s just a lot of long shots at night with seemingly nothing happening while two actors who have the chemistry to make this idea work are left floundering with seemingly nothing to do.
While watching An Unquiet Grave I kept noticing how quiet everything was, not in an eerie way but in an “I can’t actually hear what’s being said” way. Shot almost completely at night with very little sound to help set the scene, we’re left with just the ideas that this movie is built on to be what scares us and as much as I wish that were enough, it’s really not. You could almost see where this could work with better sound design and some editing to give it some more pace, which right now it just doesn’t have.
An Unquiet Grave isn’t bad, but it’s not for me. As much as I’d love to say this film was as good as its concept was, in the end, it just made me a very tired and confused man. Its slow and quiet tone never builds to something that justifies the time spent getting to the ending. The ideas are all there, a little more work and this could be another great twist on that classic Monkey’s Paw tale but for now, it’s just not that good.