One of the more distinguished efforts by the late S.F. Brownrigg,
although, given that his films aren't that great overall, that's not
The Texas-based producer/director S.F. Brownrigg
(1937-1996) was one of the more noteworthy independent filmmakers of the
seventies. During his lifetime Brownrigg turned out cheapjack classics
like THE FORGOTTEN/DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973), SCUM OF THE
EARTH/POOR WHITE TRASH II (1974), DON'T OPEN THE DOOR (1974) and this
1976 film, which was scripted by F. Amos Powell, of TOWER OF LONDON and
DEMONOID: MESSENGER OF DEATH. As with the abovementioned films, KEEP MY
GRAVE OPEN is not especially well known, but seems to have a special
place in the hearts of discerning horror fans.
In the deep south a hitchhiker enters a seemingly
deserted mansion. He elects to raid the refrigerator, from which he
takes a steak--but while cooking the meat over an open flame he's
decapitated by an unseen someone with a sword.
The following day the house's owner, a young woman
named Lesley Fontaine, returns home from a trip to the market. She lives
with her brother Kevin, who it seems committed the murder. It's not long
before he commits another murder, the victim this time being the
girlfriend of Lesley's stable boy Robert, who is stabbed through the
heart with the aforementioned sword.
A visit to her psychiatrist reveals that Lesley has an
"unhealthy" bond with her brother, which she denies. Yet that very night
she pays Kevin a special visit, getting dressed up in provocative attire
for the occasion and, it seems, having sex with her brother. She's
interrupted by an unexpected visit from Robert, who, as you might guess,
quickly meets his end at the blade of Kevin's sword.
A further killing is in store, the designated victim
this time being a prostitute hired by Lesley to service Kevin. The
unfortunate woman is killed in a now-familiar manner, after being made
privy to a long-buried (though easily guessable) "secret."
Like all of S.F. Brownrigg's films, KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN
isn't particularly distinguished, though it's not entirely
undistinguished, either. It has a definite sense of style, being
resolutely brooding and stately in nature. Brownrigg, however, loses his
composure in outrageous bits like a POV sex scene in which the camera
zooms in and out on the leading lady's mouth; such
insanity doesn't suit Brownrigg, who does best with bleak minimalism.
To his credit, Brownrigg seems fully aware of the
ridiculousness of the F. Amos Powell scripted narrative. The more
clichéd elements (such as the horny young couple who meet their ends via
Kevin's sword) are toned down, and the "secret" of Kevin's identity
(which isn't exactly difficult to predict) is given away far in advance
of the ambiguous finale.
In the lead role Camilla Carr is far better than you'd
expect (good acting is generally not a distinguishing feature of
Brownrigg's work), delivering a remarkably sympathetic performance given
that her character is completely nuts. Look also for a supporting turn
by a young Stephen Tobolowksy, a longtime Hollywood character actor who
appears here in his earliest credited film role.
KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN
Director: S.F. Brownrigg
Producer: S.F. Brownrigg
Screenplay: F. Amos Powell
Cinematography: Janis P. Valtenbergs
Editing: Jerry Caraway, Lynn Leneau
Cast: Camilla Carr, Gene Ross, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ann Stafford, Sharon
Bunn, Chelcie Ross, Annabelle Weenick, Bill Thurman, Jessie Lee Fulton,
Lucille Baldwin, Desmond Dhooge, Skipper Richardson, Cebe Reed