American Jason(Mike Vogel) overseas in Northern Spain encounters odd no-legged antique shop owner in a wheelchair who offers him a game which just so happens to be cursed with black magic. Once they play the game, which is supposed to grant a wish to the victor, those who participate are doomed if they draw the "epitaph" card which considers them dead. This antique game, which existed during the Spanish Inquisition, is given to Jason from the owner free. Anonbeliever who soon is convinced of it's dark power, Jason will need to beat the game in order to rescue his friends who are taken one by one through various methods, the epitaph card, in poetry, dispelling their fates. We see that Northern Spain is a tourist party hotspot where all the beautiful and buff Americans come to get drunk, wasted, and laid. The rules of the game, everybody could win, everybody could lose(I'm leaning towards the latter, how about you?).
Jason is a graduate student(currently working at a wildlife sanctuary), Tomas(Ethan Rains) his hardpartying friend, and Lisa(Lindsay Caroline Robba), Tomas' girlfriend(who Tomas sleeps around on behind her back)are all students in Northern Spain. Jason meets a fellow American in Erica(Eliza Dushku), who lives in a lighthouse, no less, and has a definite interest in the occult(the literary works located in her home, as Jason discovers, feature Bram Stoker and others). Tomas is a photographer, Lisa is his model, Pablo and Miguel(Boris Martinez and Ander Pardo) are Spanish students who service the plot as fodder for the game to destroy. Helena(Naike Rivelli)is another calender model Tomas beds without Lisa's knowledge. Helena, also, was a loser in the game and is frightened of what the future holds for her.
OPEN GRAVES depends almost entirely on CGI, with snakes(Black Mamba),dragon flies, and crabs(!)all playing a part in the deaths of the victims of the games. One victim withers quickly by an "age sickness" which has her deteriorating, before eventually becoming nothing more than a human shell of skin and bones. Crabs eat a victim's eyes out, someone unable to move because he fell from a cliff. Mamba bites cause one victim to swell until he suffocates due to lack of oxygen. Another is burnt alive after a horrifying crash where a fuel truck ignites, a runaway power line falling on some gas leakage, setting her on fire. Gary Picker is Detective Izar, someone who desperately wants to attain the game..and is willing to shoot anyone to get his hands on it.
I won't beat around the bush. The reason to see this is for the beauty of Dushku(whose worth slogging through any movie, no matter the quality of the product)and the setting. Everything else is blah. The CGI, cliché plot, and derivative twist all lack much to be desired. The crabs killing the one victim is rather unique, and there's one icky victim of the game who was skinned alive(if you make it to the end of the game, yet fail to choose the right slot, inside either one or another snake sculpture, to slide your dice, your fate is the same as the witch whose skin was used to fashion the game), but there isn't much else to applaud. I will say that, (despite the 'Final Destination' type of storyline where the damned attempt to avoid certain death), the victim burning alive, no matter how many times we have seen it used when a character is killed in such a way, is always a potent shock to the senses. Truth be told, I'll just be honest, I rented this because Dushku was in the cast, and I never pass up a chance to drool over her in any movie.
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