Thursday, 29 August 2013

Turn in Your Grave: my review

Turn in Your Grave is available on DVD here


Well, I received the DVD that got me so excited a couple of weeks back, and in this post I'm going to tell you what I think about it.  I have done my level best to make sure there are no spoilers in the following review, because I'd hate to ruin anybody's fun.  I would have got this post up sooner, but I wanted to watch the film a couple of times and let it settle in my brain a bit before I reviewed it.  It's that kind of film.

This is also kind of a long post because, well, Turn in Your Grave isn't the kind of thing you can sum up in a couple of paragraphs.

I enjoyed Turn in Your Grave.  If you're a horror fan, I recommend it highly.  Forget Saw, forget Hostel, this is creepier.  Saw and Hostel are nasty, but they're not sophisticated.  They rely on shock value to get a reaction out of the audience, and that trick only works once.  I can guarantee Turn in Your Grave will continue to send shivers down my spine no matter how many times I watch it.

Turn in Your Grave is a subtle movie.  There's very little onscreen violence and so little gore that it could maybe get a PG 13 rating.  There's no CGI at all.  These things are absent because Turn in Your Grave doesn't need them.  Director Rob Ager laughs at such tactics, because he knows proper atmosphere and clever directing can achieve a level of disturbing scariness that no amount of computer generated blood splatter can ever hope to match.

Turn in Your Grave is not for everyone.  The enigmatic plot means that some viewers are going to walk away confused, unsatisfied, and wondering what the hell they just watched.  If you like a clear-cut narrative and want to have all the loose ends tidied up by the time the credits roll, you may not enjoy this film.  I watched it attentively, but I'm still not 100% sure what I saw.  I have a theory, and I look forward to re-watching the film and figuring out if my theory fits all the evidence.  Audience participation is very much a feature of Turn in Your Grave.  It doesn't tell you what it's all about; you have to work that out for yourself.  My favourite thing about the film is that you can interpret it in a number of ways, and I get the feeling that it was written that way deliberately.  Some authors get upset when people read meanings into their work that they didn't intend to be there, but I think viewers are supposed to interpret Turn in Your Grave in whatever way makes most sense to them.  I like that in a film.  I like to feel that I'm being invited to think about what I see and draw my own conclusions.

The surface narrative is compelling and the actors are pretty good.  The characters aren't a very likable bunch, but I don't think they're supposed to be.  Anyway, this didn't prevent me from relating to the characters or empathizing with them.  The characters are basically what you'd get if you grabbed an assortment of people off a Liverpool street (where the film was shot).  There are no Hollywood cliches, no hard boiled warriors with hearts of gold, no grizzled cops who are too old for this shit, and no action girls with improbably large breasts.  Ager's characters are believable, ordinary people.  The film's website states that "The usual dialogue = exposition method of communicating a story became less relevant...", and I really enjoyed this method of storytelling.  The character interactions felt natural to me, because the cast were concentrating on having natural conversations instead of conversations that explain the plot.

I've been a fan of Ager's film analyses for a while now, so I was looking forward to seeing him put his skills into practice and I wasn't disappointed.  The directing, camera work, and use of filters in Turn in Your Grave are first class.  I certainly wouldn't have guessed that this is Ager's first ever feature film if I hadn't already known.  I wouldn't have guessed most of the scenes were shot in one week, either.

I might have picked up on the fact that Turn in Your Grave had almost zero budget, but don't let that put you off.  Low budget, in this case, does not mean low quality.  The limitations imposed by the film's budget are incorporated into the story so they become a feature, not a bug.  The creature effects are the best example of this: the zombies look like people in masks, but that's A-okay.  They're supposed to.  It's part of the story.

So, to sum up, Turn in Your Grave is a great film and I strongly recommend you check it out if you're into horror films, films that give you something to think about, or films that don't follow the standard industry formula.  It's an independent release distributed by the director, so your local retailer probably won't stock it, but you can get the DVD from the film's website or through Ebay.  I paid 10 quid including shipping (that's about $20 in New Zealand dollars, or $15 in US dollars), and I consider it money well spent.