Numerous unmistakable indicators suggest that “Grieve,” a title that comes across as pretentious, cryptic, and oddly labeled as “horror,” has inexplicably been picked up for distribution by Terror Films, potentially hinting at its origins as a student film.
I typically refrain from critiquing student films, even those bold enough to secure distribution from off-brand distributors. They often fall short in quality, and I don’t temper my critiques. In other words, I can be rather harsh, as anyone will attest.
It appears that writer-director Robbie Smith hasn’t helmed any other projects, at least to the best of our knowledge.
His screenplay reveals a certain insensitivity that seems confined to his own thoughts. The film opens with a nearly three-minute sequence of a character curled up on the floor, seemingly listening to an old phone message, while the screen is covered in large block letters spelling out “GRI” over “EVE.”
An unnecessary structural error kicks off with a prologue (with the “credits” following) introducing us to Sam (Paris Peterson), who’s in mourning for Sarah (Danielle Keaton). We catch a glimpse of Sarah in a flashback more than 20 minutes into the nearly dialogue-free opening act. Sam then retreats to his family’s cabin in a snowy, overcast woodland area.
Sam starts hearing voices, sometimes his own narrations and occasionally cryptic utterances whispered in French. Phrases like “Nothing festers in the cracks and expands… Nothing lives and grows” come across as just as vacuous in English as in French.
As the film unfolds, we’re left wondering whether Sam is losing his grip on reality, experiencing flashbacks from his pill use, or genuinely encountering something supernatural that appears unrelated to his grief. When Sam witnesses a gnarled hand emerging from the ground and has his first “accident” (self-harm), we’re still left in the dark about the narrative.
Interestingly, Smith offers an explanation for the plot on the film’s IMDb page. Regrettably, what he writes there doesn’t quite align with the pseudo-artsy, disjointed, and haphazardly plotted movie we witness on the screen. Attempting to clarify an intentionally obscure film with a director’s statement is a very “student film” approach, by the way.
In sum, “Grieve” comes across as obscure, awkwardly pretentious, underdeveloped in its script, and lacking depth in the performances. There’s little to recommend here. If it indeed is a student film, there’s still hope for improvement down the line, perhaps in graduate school, or perhaps not. Currently, I’m perplexed as to what any distributor saw in this project, and it’s worth noting that even the publicist promoting this mislabeled time-waster erroneously spelled “Grieve” as “Grief” in bold block letters of her own.