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Nightstream 2020 An Unquiet Grave Review- What Happens When Grief Becomes Need?

Showing as part of Nightstream Film Fest, An Unquiet Grave is a claustrophobic chamber piece that digs up grief along with the dead.

What would you do to see a loved one again? It’s a common question that spawns many horror stories from accepting literal monsters into your bed to resurrecting ghosts. The answers are different, but motivations the same. The need to see our lost loves supersedes common sense, and poor decisions are the result. An Unquiet Grave mixes the supernatural with the mundane reality of desperate grief in a tight film that practically vibrates with misery.

One year after their sister and wife is killed in a drunk driving accident, her twin Ava(Christine Nyland)and husband Jamie(Jacob A. Ware)contrive a way to bring her back. It is Jamie’s plan, and he has not been forthcoming with all the details. As part of the ritual, Ava must give her life so her sister can live again. She doesn’t learn this part until it’s too late. Unfortunately, there are consequences to not being accountable for the things we do in life, and they soon find everything has a price. Nothing stays buried forever. An Unquiet Grave is a slow burn of internal horror with a whole lot to say quietly.

Director Terence Krey’s character study often feels more like a dream than a fully fleshed concept. Strange lingering shots of dusty floors, blankets, and cars only add to the film’s disorienting feel. There are so many unanswered questions at times you focus needlessly on the question and miss the answer. Do some loose threads need pulling like what was this ritual they performed? Why was Julia buried in the ground without a casket? Who did Jamie talk to about the ritual? Last but not least, attempted to undo what Jamie did work? Maybe.

There are more questions than answers, and for the most part, that is fine as the movie operates more on a contemplative level than a strict ghost story. It’s a supernatural parable and an eerie ghost story, but it’s more than that. It is a contemplative study in denial and selfishness. An Unquiet Grave is a quick, uncomfortable watch that scares with thought more than deed.

There’s nothing overtly evil about Jamie. He initially presents as a grieving, desperate husband. Small moments of gaslighting and outright lying quickly clue you in. He is not a good person. Maybe he never was. Jamie may think he can pick right back up with Julia now using Ava’s body, but he can’t, and she knows it. More than the horror of a living ghost, Krey’s film is about the horror of control.

Jamie has stolen Ava’s agency by taking her body and stolen Julia’s by bringing her back without thought to what she wanted. His grief is so profound he thinks only of himself. His pain controls him. Reminiscent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s emotional Season 6 arc, Jamie thinks only of himself and fails to consider what Julia wants. Buffy captures the intense anger and pain someone would feel being brought back better than An Unquiet Grave, but few stories packed the same punch.

An Unquiet Grave is a grim little film with a surprisingly nasty ending. Practical effects are minimal, but perfunctory and sound editing is intentionally harsh. Good performances by Nyland and Ware capture both the confusion and incredible sadness their characters feel. Ware, in particular, does not shy away from portraying Jamie precisely as he is. He is a lonely man who has plumbed the depths of reason to steal life. Whether it be his sister-in-law’s actual life or his wife’s afterlife, the results are the same. His actions are for him and him alone.

An Unquiet Grave is a quick watch that isn’t gore-laden or full of jumpscares. Instead, it focuses on the horror of the human condition that is much scarier in many ways.

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