Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Nightstream ’20: An Unquiet Grave

Forget Kubler-Ross. Jamie is in the sixth, horror movie stage of grief: resurrection. It is tricky business—more so than he lets on with his late wife Julie’s identical twin sister Ava. These things never proceed according to plan do they? Yet, in this case, his attempts to reincarnate his beloved wife take a decidedly dark turn in Terence Krey’s An Unquiet Grave, which screens on-demand as part of the online genre festival, Nightstream.

Ava took her sister’s death nearly as hard as her husband did, so she agrees to help his radical esoteric plan to bring her back. It will not be easy though, because it requires them to conduct the ritual at the very spot where she was thrown from Jamie’s car and died. As the blood relative, Ava must also conduct it personally, without Jamie watching, like an occult corporate team-building exercise. However, everything is not as it seems.

The first two thirds of
Unquiet Grave serves as a terrific example of character-driver minimalist horror. There are practically no special effects per se, but the vibe is profoundly unsettling and the sense of foreboding keeps viewers on pins-and-needles. Unfortunately, it all dissipates during the third act, wherein the film veers into symbolism, depleting the accrued tension and undermining the narrative drive. It is like the film literally deflates itself.

Still, at least it had all that atmosphere and suspense to fritter away. The overwhelming majority of horror movies end disappointingly.
Unquiet Grave just does so earlier than most. Regardless, many genre fans will be impressed with what Krey and company achieve in the first fifty minutes or so.

Fortunately for Krey, Christine Nyland and Jacob A. Ware hold the audience transfixed throughout this sinister two-hander. Nyland freaks-out convincingly in very different ways, while Ware must creep us out, while still maintaining the audience’s sympathy. The both pull it off in a very realistic and grounded fashion. There is no eye-rolling, nostril-snorting Cagian-Streepian histrionics here—just raw human emotion metastasizing into madness.

An Unquiet Grave
is worth seeing as an atmospheric little supernatural drama that punches above its weight-class, but it might also be remembered as a promising early work from a talented genre filmmaker—hopefully so. Frankly, it is always cool to see a film get scares honestly, without any extravagant trickery. Recommended for those who appreciate the intimate side of horror, An Unquiet Grave screens on-demand through tomorrow (10/14), as part of Nightstream.