Terence Krey’s tale shows that grief is as scary as any monster

Terence Krey’s impressive An Unquiet Grave is a meditation on grief, loss, and how we cope with those things. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about those same things and the various forms they take. Death, grieving, healing…there’s so much to explore. The paradoxical nature of those things being universal parts of life, yet they can never be the same thing for any two people. We can be affected by the same events without ever truly understanding what anyone else is going through. I know I sound like a first year psych student, but as I get older and the way I think about life changes, the more I’m drawn to the things that tie us together and keep us apart. An Unquiet Grave lives in that thematic space and delivers a rumination of loss and grief that I found deeply affecting.

The whole movie revolves around Jamie and Ava, who both lost someone close to them and are struggling with their grief. That someone is Julia, sister to Ava and wife to Jamie. They’re doing their best to process their emotions and move forward, but they’re close enough to Julia’s death that they’ll reach for anything that may bring them peace. One night Jamie and Ava decide to visit the place where Julia died in order to perform a ritual to bring Julia back to life. To most sane people, anyone desperate enough to latch on to a plan like that must be deep in the throes of something traumatic. That level of desperation is hard to endure, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.

From the point where Jamie and Ava perform their ritual, An Unquiet Grave becomes an exploration of how two people can be in the same moments physically while being worlds apart mentally. There are a couple of reveals that would be criminal to reveal, so I won’t. But Krey’s movie is much more than a few gut-punch twists. It’s a story about two people brought together in a way that proves to be as destructive as Julia’s death. Jamie and Ava need each not just for support, but to indulge each other in the kind of choices that a casual observer would run away from.

An Unquiet Grave is not a plot heavy film, and it relies on its leads to sell it. Jacob Ware and Christine Nyland sell the hell out of it. Their performances are staggering. Nyland, who is credited with the script along with Krey, is particularly great. Ava is a slightly more nuanced character than Jamie, and Nyland hits every note just right. And that’s not a light against Ware. He has some dark places he needs to go, and he does it so subtly that it sneaks up on you.

Ware and Nyland balance each other well. As the only two people to appear in the movie, they have nowhere to hide and any false moments could sink the film. They’re the reason the movie works as well as it does.

This is horror at its best, functioning as something that speaks to universal ideas and truths in a way that is unbearably scary at times. The traditional horror elements in the story are effective, but, like the best horror, An Unquiet Grave is at its best when dealing with the horrors of the real world.

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