Directed by The Vicious Brothers
Grave Encounters is a movie that can easily be lost in the fold. One of dozens of horror movies made within the last couple of years that use the whole POV handy cam, found footage gimmick. There are some movies that use this gimmick to great effect. Paranormal Activity, REC, the V/H/S series to name a few. Does this flick stand up to the quality of those I just mentioned? Well... in a word, no. However it had a lot of potential and thats what I want to talk about. And, I mostly just want to get to Grave Encounters 2.
This flick starts off with some jack ass producer telling the audience that the following “footage” is unedited and is 100% REAL. Yeah, sure. He explains that he was the producer of a TV show called... wait for it.... GRAVE ENCOUNTERS! The show is about a group of ghost hunters who go around looking for ghosts in haunted places. Turn on SyFy and you’ll see what I mean. According to the producer, this show was made long before all of those other crappy ghost hunting shows. After this completely cliche and uninspired opening sequence, the “final episode” of Grave Encounters begins. Up until this point I was thinking to myself, “Great, I’m about to waste ANOTHER hour and a half of my life watching a total crapfest.” What I got was about 45 minutes of great build up with TONS of potential but I was ultimately disappointed by the lack of subtlety of the scares and the totally predictable ending.
The main actor Sean Rogerson is SOOOOO fucking convincing as douche bag ghost hunter Lance Preston, its remarkable. I mean, seriously, he’s the main reason I kept watching this flick. He delivers his douche-y lines with such precision that you aaaaaalmost believe that this could poooossibly be a real show. The rest of the actors are nothing spectacular but keep the story going well enough. Oh yeah, I forgot to explain the rest of the story. Here it goes: these ghost hunters go to an abandoned mental hospital that is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the world. After doing a couple of interviews, the team finds out that the hospital used to be run by a surgeon who did a bunch of crazy experiments on the patients and is considered to be evil or something. Anyways, they lock themselves in for the night to try and find some ghosts. The tension during this part is great. It feels exactly like one of those cheap SyFy shows. They keep egging on the spirits to “show them a sign” and its all fun and games until the ghosts start moving things and attacking the ghost hunters. The group tries to escape only to find that the exits keep changing and only lead to more hallways. The idea that they present here is that the ghosts don’t want them to leave so keep moving the walls around. What really worked here is the atmosphere. Mental hospitals + night vision = creepy. That’s just a given. The dizzying nature of the endless hallways and the constant running up and down the floors kept me on the edge. I was intrigued as to where the filmmakers were going to take the rest of the story.
Well, things of course escalate even more and the ghosts start physically manifesting. I think at this point the movie goes really down hill. The ghosts look dumb and the movie loses any sort of tension it was trying to build. There wasn’t any hint of subtlety to the ghosts. They were more blood thirsty monsters rather than evil specters. What makes a good haunting movie is the slow tension. The slower, the better I say. Some good examples that come to mind are Insidious, Kairo (Pulse), Ju-On (to be honest, the Japanese really know their shit when it comes to subtle scares) and The Orphanage. By the end, what I got from this movie was more of a 2001 Thir13en Ghosts/1999 House on Haunted Hill vibe. More shocks than scares and unfortunately the shocks were a bit tame.
If you’re running low on horror movies to watch on Netflix, this one ain’t bad. It’s not great but its not too bad. If anything, watch it so that you can watch it’s sequel, the aptly named, Grave Encounters 2, which presents a more imaginative, enjoyable and creepy experience than this first outing but I’ll explain more of that in it’s own review.
Tom is a horror / exploitation film geek extraordinaire in Minneapolis, MN and friend of the site