Director: James Marlowe
Cast: Eric Roberts, Steven Williams, Valerie Mikita, Daniel Roebuck
Plot: A detective (Williams) ends up arriving at an isolated village, where several ex-cons have disappeared.
Graves End has its merits, but it is hard to escape the sense that this movie has borrowed or stolen plot points from movies you have already seen. The main inspiration here is Wicker Man, the story focused on a close-knit community that don’t like the fact that ex-convicts are settling down here to escape their past crimes. Eric Roberts plays Tag, the head of this community, holed up in a massive mansion, who encourages the village to look after themselves. A FBI agent rolls up into town, investigating the disappearance of the latest convict and ends up rubbing up some of the townsfolk the wrong way. However, surely the agent will be OK, seeing as he hasn’t committed any crimes? Or have the community got too lost in their own power?
Graves End’s biggest problem is that it is hard to escape how cheap it is. It feels really dated, despite being made in 2005, it could easily be mistaken for predating the Wicker Man film it is desperately trying to be. All it needs is a slightly cheesier soundtrack and you half expect this movie to break into being a cheap porn movie at any given moment. Maybe that is being a little harsh, because I really don’t like criticising films for a low budget, but it really does hurt the immersion. Graves End really struggles to immerse the audience. We never really feel connected to any of the characters or plot points. This movie very easily turns into background noise. Watch this with a group of friends and it ends up being forgotten about while the group of you end up drinking and chatting. There is very little to keep your attention, which is a shame, because Graves End boasts a handful of worthwhile set-pieces and ideas.
The two main successes are the final twist and Eric Roberts. I am a strong defender of Eric Roberts as an actor, because I don’t think he is as bad as people make out. Roberts has been plagued by these kind of films to the point, where he kind of personifies them. One of the reasons he works so well here is because we totally expected him to be in this kind of movie. He suits the B-Movie cheap vibe and has the gravitas crossed with sleaze to make the character work. Sadly, he doesn’t have the fame to draw too much of a crowd in and the only holding power he has over the audience come from his fan-base. He made this film bearable for me, but I wouldn’t use him as a recommendation for Graves End. The other interesting card up Graves End sleeve is a pretty nifty twist that comes out of nowhere. The coming out of nowhere bit does throw the audience. Once it happens, you are impressed, but are left unsure where your loyalties are meant to lie.
Final Verdict: The few redeeming narrative points were stolen from better films, meaning that it is hard to compliment Graves End too much.