Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keep My Grave Open

Keep My Grave Open aka The House where Hell Froze Over

Keep My Grave Open would be the last horror film by cult director S.F. Brownrigg, who's first feature was the drive in classic Don't Look in the Basement. Retiring from making movies he showed up a decade later with the generally panned 80's teen sex bomb Thinkin' Big.

Keep My Grave Open is quite a ballsy movie. Not due to the gore, or sex scenes, or exploitative nature of it's content, but by it's attempt to make a psychological thriller about madness and insanity on the miniscule budget it had. Instead of relying on cheap gore and nudity Brownrigg relies on the talent of actress Camilla Carr and his own amateurish, yet unique, directing style to tell this twisted tale of madness.

What it lacks in budget (a light meter, I presume) it makes up for in a very fine performance in leading character Lesley Fontaine, played by Camilla Carr.

We start with a transient who creeps into an old Southern mansion and raids the fridge of booze and food. Soon after we witness his not so grisly death by a sword wielding stranger.

The following morning we're introduced to Lesley Fontaine, the owner of the property.

She seems to have a husband/lover named Kevin in a room upstairs. They have either had a fight, or he is a recluse who will not come out of the room for the coffee that Lesley has just made. She seems upset and obsessed with Kevin's refusal to acknowledge her.

Lesley also has a stable hand for her horses, a young man named Robert. Lesley seems so upset with whatever has been happening with Kevin, that she starts snapping at poor Robert.

The second murder on the property is young Robert's girlfriend. She also dies by the hand of a sword.

It is here in the film that we inexplicably find out who the killer is - Lesley. Why did the movie blow it's load so early on? Surely most slashers keep the killers identity a secret until the end. Keep My Grave Open obviously wasn't following the formulaic horror cliche's. Was this intentional? I wasn't quite sure at this point if I would even care what happened throughout the rest of the film, but I was taken in with it's cheap charm nonetheless.

Slowly we realize that it doesn't matter that they disclosed the identity of the sword wielding killer, because things are about to get weird.

Lesley, who we all know is the murderer now, starts dressing herself up. She sensually puts on makeup in front of a mirror and puts on her best seducing wear. All of this is filmed in a dream like sequence with odd camera angles, weird music, and a fisheye type of lens.

She sneaks into Kevin's room all dolled up and ready to go. We never see Kevin but what we get is a Pov shot of someone making love to her. The shot is one of the most unique ones I've seen in low budget film making.

Using the POV angle, "Kevin" suddenly stops and slowly gets off the bed and abandons her halfway through. We see Lesley beg and plead for him to continue. Cut to a shot of Lesley on her knees begging, and there is no one in sight. This entire sequence is wonderfully strange and seems to confirm what we were beginning to suspect the whole time - there is no Kevin. He's a figment of her imagination.

Throughout the rest of the film we eventually find out that Kevin is/was her brother!! Where is he and what happened to him? Did he ever exist? Did she kill him? Was his body in the house? What's up with the incest angle? What's going on here?

She delves deeper into madness murdering a couple of more people, including a prostitute that she gets for "Kevin."

The movie has gradually gotten so strange by now, that it actually had me hooked by this point.

I recommend sticking this film out to the end. It has a neat little surprise at the end that will leave you possibly more confused, but keeps you thinking about it.

The downside of the movie is the quality of most copies out there. Because it does move slow in some places, when combined with the quality could be hard to watch. But when taken as a whole you're rewarded with a gem of an exploitation that aims to be different in it's approach, and succeeds.

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