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Case Number 18262: Small Claims Court

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Open Graves

Lightning Media // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 5th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson has seen open sores more entertaining than this movie.

The Charge

Surfers + Jumanji + CGI crabs = my head hurts.

The Case

A group of surfers decide to take a break from their bodacious beach bumming to do what all able-bodied, horny twenty-somethings do at night; play board games! But we're not talking your typical round of Catch Phrase or Cranium. No, these guys have gotten their hands on an ancient, evil-looking game that was apparently made from the bones of a witch flayed during the Spanish Inquisition. As you might guess, this leaves said witch in a foul mood and her method of payback is simple; if you lose the game, you die.

One ambitious surfer is determined to complete the game and earn that sweet reward given to the winners: a wish. Along with his hot new girlfriend (Eliza Dushku, Dollhouse)—Gee, I wonder if the biggest name in this movie is hiding a dark secret?)—this dude will attempt to solve the riddle of the game and prevent more bloodshed at the hands of some truly lame CGI.

Like the malevolent board game that menaces the nameless, pointless cannon fodder in the film, Open Graves is the kind of curse that, if left unchecked, will spread to others and do to them what it did to me; waste my time.

Not only does this thing steal lots and lots of ideas, it utilizes them poorly. A killer game? Victims who buy it in chronological order? Beasts from Hell that grant wishes? All very familiar, and you can bank on seeing these ideas implemented to far better effect elsewhere. Here, all these plot points work together to form a paste of genre clichés and tedium, an experience where all that's in it for the viewer is to wearily trudge on, with the promise of the next kill lying just around the corner from the current boring scene.

Too bad the kills are the dumbest elements of a movie crowed with dumb elements. The violence ranges from weird (one of the girls rapidly grows old and deflates in her hospital bed) and ridiculous (yep, the CGI crab attack), to edited out (another victim falls into a pile of lethal snakes…and the camera cuts away; which makes sense, since they were all rendered in substandard CGI and the less we saw of it the better).

Then you have the ending, a monumental WTF moment highlighted solely by a glimpse of what I think was a CGI version of Eliza Dushku's breasts.

I don't know…I could barely see what was happening in this sequence. Like most of the film, the image is so dark and hazy it's a profound chore for the eyeball to process what's transpiring. But, you do get all this pitch blackness in anamorphic widescreen—and that's it. The screener we received was just the movie. Who knows what treasures await on the final product release!

The Verdict

Guilty of making surfer deaths boring.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Lightning Media
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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