Pure Terror: Keep My Grave Open

June 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

This was refreshing. Keep My Grave Open was hamstrung by a low budget but still did the best with what they had to make a pretty decent movie. I would say it is my third favorite on the entire box set. Check with me in a year to see if I have the same opinion. This movie did happen along while scraping the bottle of the Pure Terror barrel, so I may be overrating it a bit. But I found this movie to be a competently made horror film. But it is hardly flawless.

The film opens with a drifter walking into someones house and helping himself to pork chops. All things considered, a small crime. No matter, he is our first victim, killed in a point of view sequence with a saber. Then we meet Lesley. She is shopping for a few things before heading home. Once she gets home, she makes a mid-afternoon snack, complete with pipe, for Kevin. She yells at Kevin through the door, begging for his attention and this is the first indication that something might be a little off with this woman. Our suspicious are confirmed when she meets with her psychiatrist, Doctor Emerson. He seems to imply that either Kevin isn’t real, Kevin is a split personality of hers, or that Kevin has been away for sometime. Kevin is apparently her brother. They were left a palatial estate upon their parents death but were also left in the care of a very cruel Aunt. There appears to be some kind of inappropriate relationship between Lesley and Kevin. Incest it would appear. However, for much of the film, it’s not clear whether or not Kevin exists or has ever existed.

Lesley has a farm hand, Robert. He helps around the estate but seems mostly interested in taking care of the horses. He has a sort of girlfriend, Suzie. She stops by and wants to make plans for a night on the town but Robert is unsure. He really wants to hang out with Caesar, the horse. So later in the evening Suzie stops by to pay Robert and Caesar a surprise visit. This leads to what we are lead to believe is Kevin killing her. So there is a Psycho vibe to the whole proceedings. But this movie isn’t anywhere in the same league as Hitchcock. Robert stops by and wants to talk about horses with Lesley. She is only interested in sex with Robert, having been spurred by Kevin early in the evening and wanting desperately to make him jealous. Robert is getting a creepy vibe from Lesley though and resists her advances. In the end, he sort of gives in, saying ” I’m doing this for you, Caesar.” For a minor character whom is about to be murdered, I like that the film gives him a small, focused character motivation. He wants to ride the horse he cares for everyday. But then, Kevin strikes again while Lesley is out of the room. At this point, they have telegraphed fairly obviously that Lesley is Kevin. What happens next is rather gratuitous and probably only added to pad out the runtime. Lesley goes to the local brothel to find a hooker for Kevin. Even the hookers don’t believe Kevin exists but Lesley pays up front so they are willing to go along with whatever freaky stuff she is into. Lesley gets the hooker home, interviews her for a bit. Even the hooker is given some character color, saying she doesn’t mind what men want to do to her because her mother told her it all comes off in the wash. A sad bit of information. Then it is revealed, what we knew all along, Lesley is Kevin. Lesley shows up dressed as Kevin and immediately tries to kill the hooker. For your information, the character was given no name and is only credited as hooker. The hooker puts up a good fight but ultimately gets murdered like everyone else.

Lesley then calls Doc Emerson. I thought for sure that he would be murdered too. Instead, he makes a highly questionable calling. Seeing that she is wounded from the hooker fight and so unhinged that he is going to get the authorities to take her away (ha ha). Emerson leaves Lesley, a bleeding and unbalanced woman, all by herself while he takes off to get the police. Police he could have easily called. They do have a working phone in the house, it is shown earlier. While Emerson is out, Lesley has had enough of Kevin and his murderous ways. She overdoses on a handful of pills and glass. As she dies, we see a shadowy figure standing on a balcony. Is this Kevin or her imagination. It was Kevin, who was alive all along. To what extent, it’s hard to say.

What I liked about this movie mostly boils down to the cinematography. Unlike 90% of the Pure Terror box set, this movie actually uses the camera to help tell the story. This movie uses movement, framing, blocking, color, shadow, contrast, and angles to help add to what the director wants you to feel. They don’t do anything ground breaking but at least this film feels like it was made by someone who went to film school and knows what they are doing. The second thing I like in this movie is Camilla Carr as Lesley. She does an excellent job in her role as a mentally unstable woman self destructing.

As I have stated, this movie is not flawless. The story could have used more flushing out. At its core, this movie is Psycho with a female lead. It really lacks the complexity, subtly, and mystery of Psycho. They telegraph that Lesley is Kevin fairly early. The twist at the end raises more questions than answers. But it’s clear that the Kevin at the end of the movie didn’t kill anyone but is happy to bury the bodies. The hooker sequence was poorly thought out and unnecessary. All it amounted to was one more body for the pile. Most of the other actors in the movie are inexperienced or at least didn’t have a lot of film experience. It shows, even though the acting isn’t terrible. A bit tone deaf at moments though. I have praised the cinematography but it is important to point out that the film stock was washed out, very likely bought on the cheap. It has a look that is typical of low budget movies at the time.

The greatest value this movie has is to prospective filmmakers with few resources and contacts. Some people take this challenge and turn out crap like Guru the Mad Monk. Other people will take those chances and try to make them work in a movie that accomplishes it’s goal. In this chance, an effective horror movie, though not terribly original. They had little money for actors. So they made a story with one main role, four supporting roles, and four other small roles. They had little money for locations. So they built a story around one location, the estate house, using the outside locations to fill in some other parts of the movie. With little money for special effects, they use camera techniques and cinematography to hide the blood the couldn’t afford to show. If you want to make a movie, this is an example of a movie you can make with little money. In fact, now days with better technology, you could make this movie for less money than the original film makers. And by watching this, you should feel encouraged that you can make a better movie than this by carefully flushing out the script. All of that being said, I would recommend this film for most audiences. It’s a simple but enjoyable little film.

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Entry filed under: Horror. Tags: , , , , .

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