Nature’s Grave looks like it could have been a made for television movie for The Animal Planet or one of those learning channels. If they were ever thinking of branching out a bit into the nature gone mad type of show, wait a minute. They already have. This one attempts to be a thriller/horror film but doesn’t ever come close to either definition. The wild animals never amount to anything more than an attacking bird or a dead manatee. I’m not sure what a fan of this movie was looking for when he or she came here, but I suspect whatever it was, it was very hard not to be disappointed.
Peter (Caviezel) and Carla (Karvan) are married couple who get on each other’s nerves most of the time. Peter imagines that a long weekend of camping might be just the ticket to get their relationship back on solid footing. He buys about 10 grand of equipment, which only gets his unhappy wife even more angry at him. They pile into the car and head for a remote stretch of beach. In the middle of the night they have trouble finding the place, and if that shouldn’t have been enough to get them to a comfy hotel at least for the night, the sudden attacks by nature should have done the trick. The animal mishaps escalate, and before long they couple aren’t worried so much about their marriage surviving. They have to try and survive with their lives intact.
Dangerous animal films are nothing new. The genre might have reached its best with Jaws, but there have been a few notable films in the category. Unfortunately, for every The Birds, there are about a hundred schlock-fest awful films with lame effects or even worse scripts. Mostly both. Nature’s Grave doesn’t really have a bad script, it just never comes together as a very visually exciting film. The characters aren’t even likable. They bicker and appear to despise each other so much we can’t figure out why the world’s at all worse off if they should get taken out. It’s not that the actors don’t do a fine enough job. It’s just that their characters really suck. The snipes and attitudes just get tiresome after a short while. The film’s fine if you don’t mind constant bickering and very little actual thrill for your money.
The film’s original title was Long Weekend, and was dropped possibly because someone decided using the word long in one of the most tedious films of the year might not have been a great marketing idea. Maybe that genius should have had a look at the script, too.
Nature’s Grave is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This could have at least been a nice film to look at. It begins with a great deal of promise. While the credits play out we are treated to some wonderful shots of the beach. The color was outstanding and the picture about as pristine as a DVD can look. It gave us a bit rate of almost 10 mbps. As soon as the initial display was over, it was like someone pulled a switch. The bit rate dropped more than half what it was, and it was as if I was suddenly watching an entirely different film. Talk about your bait and switch. From there compression artifacts settle in and that wonderful color sinks to something far more mundane and mediocre.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works well in this dialog driven piece. You might expect some ambient spread to make the film a bit more creepy. There are a few sounds, but this really might as well have been a stereo presentation.
The film was financed by the Australian government, but I think they’re wasting their money on projects like this. Certainly there are a few pleasant images of a beautiful isolated beach, but there’s little else to promote the wonderful natural resources they have. They might be better advised to keep spending that money by putting a few extra shrimp on the barbie. (Not that kind of barbie, you torture porn addict.) Stop trying to scare us with dead manatee corpses. “Not everybody’s afraid of Mother Nature.”