Friday, 19 August 2011

Review: Grave Encounters

Directed By The Vicious Brothers
Starring: Sean Rogerson, Juan Redinger, Ashleigh Gryzko
Lance Preston and the crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital , where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years. All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted - it is alive - and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. They soon begin to question their own sanity, slipping deeper and deeper into the depths of madness, ultimately discovering the truth behind the hospital's dark past...and taping what turns out to be their final episode.
Ok, I had just watched Trollhunter and thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like watching another “found footage” movie and Grave Encounters seemed like a good one to stick in the player. I was a little put off but ultimately intrigued that the movie was directed by “The Vicious Brothers”. It’s not the first time (and won’t be the last) that I’ve seen a movie directed by “brothers” (The Spierig brothers for example) but it just seemed a bit contrived and pretentious. Whether it is or it isn’t doesn’t matter because Grave Encounters is a lot of fun.
We get the customary beginning; test card followed by an introduction that explains what the footage was edited from. The edited “found footage” then starts properly and we meet the guys involved. I haven’t seen much in the way of reality ghost hunting TV shows but I’ve seen enough of Most Haunted (the UK version) and I’m aware of them. The first part of the movie is very tongue in cheek and shows how the crew intend to make up scares if nothing presents itself. They don’t expect it to but rely on a fake medium to add atmosphere to the scenes of them wandering through the abandoned hospital.
The ghostly apparitions begin slowly but build up to the point where you really don’t know what to expect and what’s around that corner, up on the ceiling or coming towards the camera, or in the basement area corridors.
Grave Encounters is a mish-mash of what we’ve seen in recent movies of the same style. You can tick off references from Paranormal Activity, REC, House on Haunted Hill, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist and probably others but the references didn’t add up enough to annoy me. Although there is a potpourri of references, the movie entertains.
The acting isn’t A-class and it doesn't seem quite as natural as it is in REC for example, but it isn't bad for a budget this size.
I’ve always wondered what it is about the Paranormal Activity movies that scare people, because rightly or wrongly (depending on your perspective) Grave Encounters shows much more than the PA movies do. It could work against it, but I preferred the approach. The PA movies rely on too much of the stare at the screen and then something will eventually move type of scare.
The synopsis (from the producer) says that the building is not just haunted, it’s alive. I prefer the idea that the spirits in the building are playing with the characters mind, that the speeding up of time is only in their heads and not a change in the law of physics. It’s up to you, the viewer, to determine what you believe is happening.
The only minor letdown, as with most movies of this type, I’d like it if a director arranged some effects that weren’t signposted, as in, have some spooky stuff going on without the camera pointed right at it. For example, the constant footage of walking down a corridor could have included some imagery in the background that only we, the viewer, notice. It’s only a minor point. What we do see isn’t signposted in quite the same way as most of the current US horrors, which is by using visual or aural clues, followed by a crescendo of sound. One scare is lifted right out of the 1985 original Day of the Dead and is very effective.
You’re probably all used to it by now, but I’ll say it again; go in with an open mind and a suspension of disbelief and you’ll be rewarded. This is one of the better “found footage” movies that has been released. It’s quirky, fun and there are enough scares to keep it interesting. It takes a little while for the spookiness to kick in but the last forty minutes more than make up for the build up.
Score: 8/10

1 comment:

Wes M said...

Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital... nice little Last House on the Left hommage there !