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Nature's Grave (2008)

DVD Cover (Screen Media)
Movie Connections:
Long Weekend
> Long Weekend (1978)
> Nature's Grave (2008)
Genres:
Horror, Natural Horror, Thriller
Director:
Jamie Blanks Jamie Blanks
Starring:
Jim Caviezel Jim Caviezel
Claudia Karvan Claudia Karvan
Star Star
John Brumpton John Brumpton
Roger Ward Roger Ward

5.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: November 22, 2009
I know it's getting a little repetitive, what with me saying this once or twice a week and all, but I really hate the idea of remakes in general. I really shouldn't, in theory; I mean, what's wrong with taking a great movie, updating it with modern special effects, working out any kinks that the original may have had, and bringing it up to speed with today's world so that people can better identify with the characters and story? In a perfect world, I'd be salivating at the very idea of a remake of any of the classics, and what with the flood of remakes that have been coming out for the last few years, I would be in cinephile heaven.

The problem is that we don't live in a perfect world. I would venture to guess that something along the lines of 89% of remakes are complete and utter garbage, movies that shit on their source material while pandering to the teenage crowd for a few more dollars come opening weekend. Five percent of those remakes are equal to the original films: perhaps they are better in some ways, maybe they're worse in others, but at the end of the day, they don't surpass the original and they don't make me want to cry. Then we have that tiny little sliver of the pie - that one percent of remakes that manage to completely outdo their respective originals. These are a rare breed to say the very least, but they do exist. Observant readers may have noticed that there is five percent missing from my math here, and that five percent is reserved for remakes like Nature's Grave: remakes that are content to simply copy verbatim every line and every scene from the source (in this case, the criminally underrated Long Weekend).

For those who have seen the original, you already know everything that happens here. For those who haven't, the story follows a married couple - Peter (James Caviezel) and Carla (Claudia Karvan) - who decide to head out to a remote stretch of beach for a long weekend of camping, swimming, and mending their nearly broken marriage. They eventually arrive after getting lost for most of the night (it seems the roads have disappeared over the years), and they immediately break into typical yuppie behavior: littering, killing animals for fun, chopping down trees for no good reason, and making general pests of themselves. Mother nature soon decides that she has had enough, and from there... well, to go any further would spoil the film, and more importantly, it would also spoil the original film.

If Long Weekend didn't exist, I would be singing the praises of this film and bemoaning the fact that it went straight to DVD instead of getting a theatrical run. Regardless of how cheesy the storyline may sound, it works out damned well on the screen and strikes a chord with anyone who has ever thrown a bottle out of their car window or flicked their cigarette on the side of the road. The film compliments this storyline by providing us with a tense atmosphere that slowly builds over the course of the running time, and by the time the finale rolls around, viewers are on the edge of their seats. Yes, if Long Weekend had never been released, then I might go so far as to call Nature's Grave an almost perfect film. The problem, obviously, is that Long Weekend just celebrated its thirty-first anniversary.

Is the story good here? It sure is, but only because the filmmakers lifted it directly (and I do mean directly) from the original film. I had no issues with the story here, but then, I had no issues with it when I first saw it play out in the original. Do the tension levels rise high enough to truly immerse the viewer in the movie experience? They do indeed, but again, they only accomplish this because they used the exact same formula with the exact same events and the exact same dialogue that we saw in the original. How about visuals? This movie had some gorgeous backdrops for its characters to interact in, but guess what: so did Long Weekend. There was really only one thing that could be improved upon from the original, that being a scene involving a bird that I distinctly recall being laughably fake. You may not believe this, but Nature's Grave even copied that problem, but I do give them credit for fucking it up with CGI instead of with props. I guess there was something original here after all.

Besides the obvious issue that I have been driving home throughout the review, the only real problem that I had with the film was the casting of the former Jesus himself, Mr. James Caviezel. To be blunt, Caviezel should have never gotten this role. Oh, sure, he's perfectly fine during a good chunk of the running time, but it's the scenes in which he has to be an asshole that suffers from his casting. You see, part of the reason for the broken marriage is Peter's temper, and we see this by watching him yell at his wife and belittle her feelings about the issues at hand during various scenes in the movie. This is where Caviezel is in over his head, and it's almost embarrassing to watch him try to deliver those lines. Again, he is good at portraying every other aspect of the character, but these pieces of the movie hurt.

Nature's Grave is sort of like a counterfeit Mona Lisa: it may look as good as the original and it may provide an alternative to the real thing, but at the end of the day, it's still just a copy. Judging the film based purely on its own merits, I would rank it somewhere just under the original in terms of my overall enjoyment. However, in the same way that the real Mona Lisa is a priceless work of art while counterfeits sell for a few bucks at the flea market, Nature's Grave should be avoided by anyone looking for the real thing. Pick up the original film on DVD and just pretend that it was never remade. 5/10.
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