When I first read the plot of An Unquiet Grave it reminded me of one of my favourite quiet horror films, A Dark Song. Two people performing a ritual to bridge the space between life and death for a loved one whose loss one of them can’t move on from. That kind of a two-character film is very hard to pull off, which made me very curious to see what director Terence Krey and co-writer Christine Nyland could do with the concept.
Jamie (Jacob A. Ware, Boardwalk Empire, You Wouldn’t Understand) lost his wife Julie in a car crash a year ago and hasn’t gotten over it. In part because he was the one driving. Now on the anniversary of her death, he’s returned to the scene with Ava (Christine Nyland, The Garden Left Behind, Summoners) who is not just her sister but her identical twin.
He’s convinced her to help him perform a ritual to let him see her again. But as the night wears on, his intentions appear to be considerably different from what he claims.
An Unquiet Grave, which made its world premiere at Nightstream, is as much about grief, loss, and how we handle it as it is about dark magic. About what could drive Jamie to the extremes he is willing to go to in order to see his wife again. Some of the other things the film is supposed to deal with were less apparent to me, and I wouldn’t have made the connections if I hadn’t come across statements from the filmmakers. I’m not sure whether that was me being dense or the script not making them clear enough.
An Unquiet Grave utilizes resurrection to interrogate body autonomy, consent, and the way men’s unprocessed emotions hurt not only the women around them, but ultimately themselves.Christine Nyland
Taken at face value, however, An Unquiet Grave is a distinctly creepy film. Both the build-up to the ritual and the aftermath as things spiral out of control are well handled. It’s not jump-scare material, it’s more like seventy minutes of cold shivers down your spine.
Krey, Nyland, and Ware all worked on the series Graves and their familiarity with each other shows. The chemistry between the performers feels right regardless of which of the sisters Nyland is playing. There are none of the rough spots micro-budget films often have in the technical departments either. It looks good despite being shot almost entirely at night, and despite what few effects there are, Beatrice Sniper (Theresa & Allison, Slapface) does a convincingly gross job of providing.
As noted, An Unquiet Grave had its first showing as part of Nightstream. I’m not sure what other screenings are planned, though I would expect it to play more festivals. The film does have a Facebook page although there’s currently nothing posted. Possibly as screenings are scheduled, they will be announced there.