Saturday, July 27, 2013

Movie Review: Grave Encounters (2011)

Just call me The Girl Who Loves Ghosts. And found footage. I am a complete sucker for both and will watch a movie that merely mentions either one. But put the two of them together in a movie? Oh, hell, I don't have a chance. Thus we have Grave Encounters. I didn't know much about it before today except that it seems to be pretty popular with some audiences, pretty unpopular with other audiences, and it already has a sequel. And all I can say, should I be talking to anyone else who is as finicky about their ghost movies as I am, is that despite a well-known premise and a somewhat uninteresting beginning - stick with this movie. Hopefully, you won't be disappointed.

Lance Preston and his crew are filming a new episode of their reality ghost-hunting show called "Grave Encounters." They spend the night locked inside the abandoned and rumored haunted Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, filming themselves as they explore the building and setting up other cameras around the hospital as well in order to capture some paranormal activity - and end up getting much more than they expected.

Like I said, this movie does not have a very promising beginning. As a found footage movie, they have to do something right off the bat that tells us that this is something that really happened and all this stuff you're going to see is stuff they found and edited together for us. Then they introduce the film crew with its foul-mouthed cameraman, fake medium, too-cool-for-you equipment guy, the token female, and the obnoxious host. He was the worst for me because I absolutely hate the real ghost-hunting shows, and the way this guy acted reminded me so much of the host of Ghost Adventures. What a tool. I couldn't have stood for that crap much longer.

But again, like I said, stick with the movie. Because just when I was ready to completely give up on it, they threw in the first twist which made me realize that this was going to be something different. After experiencing some mildly spooky phenomena, the team freaks out and decides to bash open the front door because the caretaker, who was supposed to let them out at six o'clock in the morning, is late. They get the front doors open only to reveal... another hallway. The building is apparently not only haunted, but also kinda possessed as it constantly changes and also doesn't seem to follow the rules of time (their clocks show 8:30 in the morning and it's still dark outside).

Though I can't at the moment put my finger on where I've seen this sort of thing before, I know it's been done in some way shape or form. Maybe I'm just thinking of Labyrinth. Anyway, I can't lie. I dug this plot twist mostly because it instantly saved the movie from what was becoming dangerously close to mediocrity. From then on, Grave Encounters continually surprised me with its fresh ideas pertaining to the creepy stuff - the food they brought spoils fast, the roof access stairwell that leads only to a solid wall, the patient wristbands that appear after the group wakes up, the hand coming through the door, the many hands and arms that come out of the ceiling and walls, and disappearing into a bathtub of blood. What can I say? I freaking love that shit and I'll love it 'til the day I die. And you have to admit that they actually did a pretty good job of taking one of the biggest horror cliche premises and turning it into something completely different and unexpected, and gave the audience something totally new to experience for the last half the movie.

The only problem is that I wish they had left the creepy stuff at the usual ghost manipulations. I wasn't too happy with the ghost-patients and their digitally-demonized faces. That's been done in other movies too and you know what? It wasn't scary then either... just kinda lame. I guess it's just my personal preference about what scares me the most - I never really need to actually see the ghost in full form or any kind of form; I only need to see what the ghost is able to do. The other bad thing about most of these found footage movies is that they are usually only good for the first run. Some are rewatchable simply because they kick ass, but ones like Grave Encounters, where half of the movie's effectiveness comes from the discovery of what's to come, don't do as well on subsequent viewings. I think I'd be skipping the entire first 45 minutes

Much like [REC], Grave Encounters ends with only a slight peek into what was really responsible for all the phenomena. I bought it. It's the easy explanation, but it works. And this episode of Grave Encounters comes to an end! I didn't have much faith once this movie began but it totally came through for itself by providing this lover of all things ghost with some really awesome ghost stuff to enjoy. If you also dig the found footage, I would recommend this one. It hasn't become my new favorite or anything, but it is sure better than some of the other found footage attempts out there.


  1. This was a very nice surprise. Lots of stunning scares and uncanny atmosphere. Highly enjoyed it!

  2. I totally dig Grave Encounters, and the sequel isn't bad either. I love the trapped feeling and yeah the freaky-faced ghosts were a little overdone, but like you, I could look past it ;) Good play on the genre

  3. I almost gave this to you for PT. In hindsight, it was a good call.

    That said, I still consider it my mission to give you bad FF Films. I don't know why.

    If it helps, what I have potentially for you next is bad, but not FF. It is fitting in many ways too.

    1. The Grave Encounters sequel is perhaps a better Project Terrible choice - wasn't as much a fan of that one.

  4. Am I the only one who remembers it as the movie where the girls gets face diddled by a mini chuthulu?? X'D