Directed by: Terence Krey. Starring: Jacob A. Ware, Christine Nyland. Runtime: 1h 12 min. Released: This film had its World Premiere at Nightstream Film Festival on October 11, 2020.
A year after the death of his wife, grieving widow Jamie (Jacob A. Ware) enlists the help of his sister-in-law, Ava (Christine Nyland), to bring his wife back. They go to the site of the crash to perform an ill-advised ritual, and it doesn’t go according to plan.
This is another tale in the “what would you do for your family?” horror cannon, which has seen some good features, even at this year’s Nightstream with Anything for Jackson and My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell it To. Here, An Unquiet Grave is carried by two great performances by Jacob A. Ware and Christine Nyland, who also co-writes this film with director Terence Krey. And when I say the film’s carried by these two performances, they’re virtually the only ones in the film and are there in every scene. With that said, it’s great that these performances are so compelling.
Ware captures the grief of his character well, as does Nyland, and Nyland’s performance is the standout here as it’s unpredictable, and I would give kudos to a unique aspect of her performance but that would border on spoilers. But with what happens in the film and what results from the ritual is fascinating and creates such a cool dynamic, and makes for such an interesting concept.
Character-wise, I liked the writing in it. I think with these characters, it’s more feelings we have towards these characters specifically as we have to come up with our own conclusions and fill in some blanks about them. We know them through this situation and that’s all we need to know, and I think that is an interesting approach to character. We know Jamie will do anything to see his wife again, and the character is well-rounded because of how we feel about him because of what transpires. I think we could get more depth, but we get all we need to know. The writing in some scenes is fantastic, especially one moment by Christine Nyland in a reaction I found raw and memorable, though getting into specifics would spoil too much.
The film clocks in at a succinct 72 minutes and never overstays its welcome. It’s strange that this is still a “slow-burn” even though this is so short, and not a lot happens. There’s the main event and the performances carry us through the rest. Even in dialogue, there’s a sense that this is a mumblegore approach as the dialogue flows naturally and has an improvised feel for a lot of conversations.
I don’t want to end the review on a mediocre note so I’ll mention my main problem here. I found the ending underwhelming as, while the rest of the film maintains interest, the end doesn’t pack a punch that the rest of An Unquiet Grave does and that left me disappointed. This is also the kind-of horror that I appreciate but never truly floors me, as this is the type of chiller horror with an emphasis on mood, dialogue and character (as well as a great score by Hugo Lopez). However, all these aspects are executed well and why I still enjoyed the film.
There are some genuinely eerie things that happen here, and some gore that I wanted to look away from (anything with the arm and veins makes me uncomfortable). There are also some truly brilliant details in this film as Nyland’s character gets accustomed to her environment, as well, and it’s something super subtle that has a lot of cool implications in the moment. I’m being vague with this because I don’t want to spoil the film’s most unexpected developments, which is so intriguing and really makes this film worth the watch, especially if it’s the kind-of horror film that you enjoy.