Turn In Your Grave
Once there was a guy who thought it would be fun to create a zombie-themed short film, until he became overwhelmed by the “scientific impossibility” of dead flesh actually coming to life and the “cartoonish” representation of zombie gore that is often found in such films. The script for the original zombie short was rewritten again and again until it morphed into something else, straight from the mind of that filmmaker, Rob Alger. Later, as actually creating this new film became a reality, it was decided to throw out the script altogether and have a group of performers adlib in a warehouse over a week, creating about an hour of what was to be the finished product, and then write a script to pull these impromptu pieces together into a coherent whole. Turn in Your Grave was born.
Turn in Your Grave revolves around a group amnesiacs who wake up trapped in a warehouse one day, not knowing who they are or where they are, or why. Over time random monsters appear in the warehouse and try to kill them, and sometimes they succeed… but ultimately when they are defeated they disappear without a trace. Where are these people? Is this drug induced, is this Hell? You may never find out.
I am a big fan of the concept of naturally occurring dialogue and action by actors who react to the stimuli before them and attempt to create interaction that is “natural” – the concept. Unfortunately, as this technique is tried again and again I have yet to see the concept work out well in practice. At some point I’m going to have to give up on being a fan of the concept I guess, because that concept has to work occasionally I’d think, before true fandom can blossom. One of the keys to making this method work, it seems, is that the ad hock methods shouldn’t be obvious. The point is for the interaction between characters to be natural, so why does this freeform action always seem so darn unnatural? Is it possible that this isn’t actually a bold filmmaking technique, but rather just lazy screenplay writing? I am looking very hard for evidence of the former, but haven’t found it yet.
This film, like many others, also attempts to withhold information for a grand unveiling at the end. A little bit of confusion as to what’s actually transpiring is a good thing if the ultimate goal is an “ah-ha” moment at the end when everything comes together. This too, just like the improvisational scenes, must be handled correctly. There is a line, not even a “fine line” but simply a line, between withholding key information until the end and presenting a mishmash that absolutely makes so little sense that it’s almost impossible to watch. When there is a concept in a filmmaker’s head that he/she is trying to communicate to an audience, that’s great… but somehow that concept needs to make it out of that filmmaker’s head and into the heads of the audience eventually. If that never does happen then what you get is a film that only makes sense to the filmmaker, while leaving the audience dazed and confused.
To be fair, I’m not Einstein… so just because this film made absolutely no sense to me doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make sense to others… perhaps I’m just a dummy. So, here is the conclusion: Either I’m a dummy, or Turn in Your Grave stinks. Either of these contentions may be true, maybe both of them are true. Heck, maybe neither of them is true. I’m just not sure anymore.
I do know one thing though… I like zombie movies. I think when the outbreak comes to pass we’ll see what’s scientifically impossible.