Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Beyond The Grave follows a vengeful police officer searching for a supernatural serial killer.
Beyond the Grave takes the slow-burn approach to a whole new level as it presents a painfully ponderous tale about a police officer’s quest for revenge. For all its attempts to persuade us of its thoughtful attitude towards this post-apocalyptic wasteland and the heroes and villains that now inhabit it, the film cannot persuade us that its lethargy is anything more than a shroud to disguise its lack of engaging action.
The film begins with a poorly choreographed and messy one-sided shoot-out scene that, I can only imagine, is attempting to rival the action-violence from a Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino flick. The hero, our lone police officer, takes down 4 men (2 with 1 bullet, may I add) before a word of dialogue is even spoken. There is no explanation, no answer, no rhyme or reason for why he’s done it, but he’s done it. It’s a mediocre attempt to drum up the mystery around this one-man killing machine, but the scene is executed with such a whimper that it is impossible for us to be convinced of this guy’s innate ability to kick ass. Moments like this need style and sophistication, not deafening silence and shaky hand-held camerawork. It’s a disappointing beginning and, unfortunately, Beyond the Grave barely improves.
Suddenly, the initial silence makes sense. Limp action and violence is the least of this film’s problems, because the script is where the real issues begin to emerge. Heavy-handed writing and repetitive phrases surrounding the seven gates of hell opening up, shooting guns without bullets and the need to survive above all else, make for some uncomfortable moments that are far too clear-cut. Beyond the Grave swings from these brash explanations that guide its audience along the footpath, to other moments that are stupidly ambiguous and under-explained.
The ambiguity surrounding the supposedly supernatural serial killer is particularly problematic. As an audience, we are to accept that there is a type of shape-shifting murderer on the loose that can be reborn into other bodies when it is killed; so why is the officer even attempting to kill this thing? He himself understands that it cannot die, so the entire plot is a futile circle of uninteresting pointlessness. Perhaps there is a comment on the desperation of having a drive and a purpose in this new world ruled by the undead, but that doesn’t make it any more interesting for the film’s viewers.
The lack of connection to any of the characters is immediately problematic. Fellow zombie stories like The Walking Dead strive with their effortless ability to draw us in to the characters that we are set to journey with. Beyond the Grave’s instant immediacy that counters the rest of the film’s slow approach to storytelling, does not try to give the audience time or a reason to connect, empathise or associate with its characters. This makes it all the more difficult for us to join in with this lonely road trip and only succeeds at emphasising the general feeling of tedium and the over-arching sense of audience dislocation from the events on-screen.
For a post-apocalyptic wasteland, everyone seems to be doing just fine. A measly 5-or so glowingly white-faced zombies make an appearance, never posing too much of a threat and everyone’s clothes look to be in ship-shape. Our policia hero, for one, looks un-realistically swanky in his pristine suit and later characters sport shirts that are whiter than any white tee that I own. A post-apocalyptic world has to be convincing and moss-covered walls and radio bulletins describing the end of the world are not enough to persuade me that any kind of apocalypse has taken place. The setting itself is suitably desolate with its never-ending dessert roads, but this is a superficial means of convincing that never goes below the surface and into the psyches of these supposed survivors.
Beyond the Boredom would have been a better title for this tired, tedious and generally terrible supernatural, post-apocalyptic actioner. If you can imagine Mad Max without the adrenaline and spectacle, you’ll be well on your way to understanding why Beyond the Grave is best left buried.
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)