Though promising, AN UNQUIET GRAVE, directed by Terence Krey, fails to fully flesh out the film and, unfortunately, too many missteps harm a story that had the potential to be more about grief, love, and letting go.
AN UNQUIET GRAVE is about a man, Jamie (Jacob A. Ware) who is unable to accept the death of his wife, recruits her sister, Ava (Christine Nyland), to perform a ritual to bring her back. The story deals in grief and how far we are willing to go to bring the people we love back and how, often, we sacrifice the parts of ourselves that the person we missed loved most.
The relationship between Jamie and Ava feels genuine thanks to the performances between the two leads, particularly as they chat in the car on their way over to perform the ritual. As they’re performing the ritual, with Ava blindfolded, we are invested in the scene thanks to Ava’s discomfort and fear that something will go wrong. When she calls out to Jamie and gets no reply, then is suddenly cut we are worried her fears are correct—that something otherworldly occurred.
We soon learn this is both correct and incorrect. The ritual does not go wrong…except for Ava who was not given the complete details of the ritual by Jamie. When they are arguing in the car afterward, that’s when she realizes that Jamie gave her body to his wife; her sister, Jules.
The acting from Christine Nyland is fairly good. Particularly the transition from her playing Ava, to now playing the recently deceased sister inhabiting Ava’s body. Her reaction to the cut on Ava’s arm that she keeps messing with because she knows someone hurt her sister and feelings of detachment while being trapped in a skin that is not her own is well-acted. Of course, Jamie tells his wife that her sister chose to sacrifice herself. But her sister is not gone and weird things start occurring to signal she’s around and not happy.
While the idea is good, there is too much that detracts from it in AN UNQUIET GRAVE. The editing especially is problematic and creates confusion as to what is happening and when. The shift particularly from daytime to night was so haphazard it’s uncertain whether it was a dream or not. Certain shots are confusing or pointless and it distracts from what we are supposed to be feeling for the characters. Perhaps this was due to a limited budget and time constraints. Still, the shots don’t build suspense and many are unnecessary. Shots of a bed, a blanket, a car, trees—just unnecessary.
We also don’t fully understand what the ritual entailed or what is required to undo it so, we don’t fully understand the stakes. Where is the grave? We see it moved to the backyard, but is it still in the backyard when he digs? Why did his wife vanish? Why is he digging her up? Who was he talking to on the phone about the ritual? There’s no clear explanation and that ends up a feeling of confusion more than anything else throughout AN UNQUIET GRAVE.
The sound effects are really good, but the scenes don’t do them justice. The end track is beautiful, but again these are hits in an overall mediocre film that could’ve been more.
Doing something evil—yes body-snatching your sister-in-law is evil and why he thought his wife would be okay with that I’ve no idea—for love does not purify the action. The story was there in AN UNQUIET GRAVE but the execution of it missed the mark. Hopefully, a story similar to this will crop up again with all the parts there to bring it to life.
AN UNQUIET GRAVE had its world premiere at NIGHTSTREAM.