Thus far, you may think I’m coming down hard on Grave Encounters, but you have to understand that this is a movie that embraces its genre conventions like long-lost relations embrace you after you win the Powerball jackpot. Things go bump in the night, usually accompanied by an unwarranted increase in the soundtrack’s volume level; people wander off, never to be seen again; and the crew keeps right on filming events as they occur way past the point where I would have chucked the camera at the nearest ghost’s head and ran away faster than a politician dodges a campaign promise.
“Oh, my God! Did you get that? Her jaw totally dislocated from her head! TELL ME YOU FUCKING GOT THAT!”
However, Grave Encounters is still a mildly superior example of the genre it embraces. No cast will ever match the scared shitless vibe the group from the Blair Witch managed because of, you know, actually being scared shitless by the movie’s directors, but Grave Encounters’ cast of unknowns acquit themselves nicely enough. There’s a screamer, there’s always a screamer in these things, but the actress wisely doesn’t go overboard with the hysterics.
Where the movie excels is in tone and presentation. For a flick shot for well under half a million dollars, Grave Encounters squeezes every ounce of tension out of its principal locale. I’m unsure where the movie was shot or what use the building that plays the role of the asylum once served, but you couldn’t pay me enough to spend the night there, especially since the cast ask the groundskeeper to lock them in for the evening. The movie’s true scares come not from special effects, neither visual nor audio, but in its use of the asylum’s corridors. Once the cast becomes trapped inside, time ceases to flow and the once easy-to-navigate hallways become a maze of endlessly repeating rooms.
“Aw crap, I think we took a wrong turn at the last creepy shadow at the end of the hall, guys.”
Directed by The Vicious Brothers (sheesh, trying a bit too hard there, fellas), Grave Encounters is the duo’s first cinematic effort and shows early promise of talent yet to come. Given a larger budget and a better screenwriter, I foresee interesting things in their future. Speaking of upcoming efforts, the trailer for Grave Encounters 2 just hit the Internet. The Brother’s have ceded directorial duties to music video guru John Poliquin.
I liked Grave Encounters quite a bit. Its flaws are inherent to the genre. The best compliment I can pay the movie would be to say that Grave Encounters exceeds the standards of the genre, but it does not surpass them. It’s a perfectly adequate scary movie to huddle up to, and some of the “gotcha!” moments are quite effective. It’s still miles ahead of the regurgitated crap that the last couple of Paranormal Activity movies turned out to be. Worth a rental!