GRAVE ENCOUNTERS – The Hughes Verdict: A Short Review

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grave encounters
WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT

We meet Lance Preston and his crew of TV rookies who are filming a new ghost-hunting reality show called “Grave Encounters”, a show in the vein of the popular British TV show Most Haunted. We are told that the first five episodes they shot were great TV but when they got to Episode 6 and their destination the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, they were never seen again.  Footage arrived back at the studio and its here we the viewer watch went on in that unaired TV Episode..  Things do not just go bump in the night, but blood, screams and death are heard throughout the vast dark corridors, where terror is all captured on the ever filming camera.  

THE HUGHES VERDICT!

Sometimes I watch an horror and I get so frustrated at what I am seeing that the film just loses me and never gets me back.  Writing reviews is a delicate job because when I criticise a film many may read that and believe that I am suggesting I could do a better job than the director and writer but believe me I am not.  I wish I had the determination to go out there and get the finance, the equipment, the crew and a stellar cast to make a horror film and then show it to the world and I admire all these new kids on the block who are determined to make a name for themselves, so what I hate the most about reviewing films for this website is when I see one that really annoys me because I just can not gel with what is happening.

Grave Encounters is the perfect example of this feeling.  Recently reviewed by Matt Wavish on the Official page who lavished the praise on this new “found-footage” horror, I sat down in hope that what I was about to see was this years new Paranormal Activity, a film that will take me to that dark place again that I love to go being such a horror fanatic.  I mean how could it not?  The premise is fantastic, a quite wonderful set up for this new genre that surely made my blood rise to a high level of anticipation.

We start with a talk from a Producer of a TV Station who fills us in with what we are about to see.   Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) is the new kid on the block of reality TV shows.  The show “Grave Encounters!” has Lance and his crew visiting all the scary places around the country that is supposed to be haunted and they spend the night where they hope to capture all things that go bump in the night on their camera.  For the British readers this film is more like Most Haunted while the Americans can associate this with the MTV show Fear and for those who really watch everything horror with that quite wonderful episode of Supernatural which had Dean and Sam in this very same position!  What we are told is that everything was going great with the show but when they got to episode six, something really bad happened and what we are about to see is all real even though you may not believe in what you are seeing.

The destination is an old asylum that bares a huge resemblance to that of the building in the much superior Session 9, a place where many people over the years claim is a real hotspot for ghostly figures.  What I loved about the beginning of this film is the set up is wonderful.  The brilliantly named Vicious Brothers really do the business in they debut directed film, because you can not help but get sucked right into what we are seeing.  They also cleverly build on what many sceptics feel we get in the real programmes like Most Haunted in that the crew play to the camera with Lance the chief culprit of this.  We see the lead presenter come a different person when the camera is on, a real cocky over the top personality and when he is not being filmed he just wants to make Grave Encounters the most scariest TV show around even paying the local gardner to invent a story that he has seen a ghost when originally he said he has not seen anything in all the time he worked there.

Again I have to comment on the build up because it creates a tremendous atmosphere especially when we see Matt (Juan Riedinger) setting up the cameras around the place at night.  The camera being switched on to reveal dark empty corridors, spooky rooms with decay all over the walls, this is perfect material for “found-footage” and I was foaming at the mouth to see what delights would bring after the crew are locked in for the night.

We start off quite well, the first sign is of an abandoned wheelchair (another Session 9 riff) that we see move on its own while one of the members of the crew have their back turned.  We then see doors shut tight and then the best bit in which poor Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko) has the fright of her life when someone lifts her hair in which the crew scream and run down the corridor, like any other sane person would do.  At this exact time I was really feeling good about this film, the scares were small but set the pace lovely and the atmosphere of dread was pouring out of the TV screen, but just when I thought I was into something really special, the makers make a fundamental mistake in which the concept never recovers from.
Before we know it, Lance is downstairs telling the guys to pack up because the night is finished and it will be daylight soon.  At first I actually thought I heard him wrong, but then I realised that I didn’t and soon Grave Encounters started to complicate things badly.
When the Caretaker fails to turn up, the crew decide to smash down the front door of the building and when they do its here the film moves away from the simple pleasures of Blair Witch and Paranormal and into the realms of fantasy.  Not a good move when you need the viewer to believe in what they are seeing is actual footage of a true event.  When they break open the front door they are not greeted with the outside world but another corridor that leads deeper into the Asylum.  Panic engulfs the team and soon they realise that there is no way out, every exit door leads to a new corridor, there is no roof top because the route is blocked with stone walls and soon the spirits are coming more and more and this time they want to do more and play with their hair.
Moving the concept from such a simple premise to fantasy is a huge mistake.  All the wonderful tension they managed to create is completely ruined because I no longer believed in what was happening.  The reason why films like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch is universally loved and will stand the test of time in the found footage genre is because we the viewer believe that what is happening to them could happen to us whether in our bedrooms or on a camping trip!
Grave Encounters becomes too loaded with ideas from what it originally set out to be and it really jumps the shark when we see members of the team disappear in a cloud of smoke (this does actually happen), the
crew wake up and see patient tags on their wrists, and also words cut into their skin.  Its just too much for the genre and the film suffers badly.
One moment that sums all this up is when one of the members comes across a tongue on the floor.  Now the set up is perfect, the crew member mutters on the camera “what is it?….what is it?….” the camera he holds pans down and we see this human tongue.  Now it would have been better if we saw this and then the film moved on, leaving our imagination to go over drive, but sadly the makers feel the need to add the money shot and it just loses the quality.
There will be those who argue that REC 2 went the same way as Grave Encounters but that followed on from a classic original and needed to do something different while keeping what made Rec work.  It does not work with Grave Encounters because they fail to realise that the best horrors are the ones who believe “less is more!”.  With everything thrown in, the film just does not become scary and towards the end it trots along the lines of tedious.
By not sticking to what they originally promised and that is a Reality TV Crew being stuck over night in an Haunted Asylum the makers shot themselves in the foot by over thinking the scares, so for that maybe we should change the title from Grave Encounters to Grave Mistake!……….
FINAL VERDICT!
By trying to overcomplicate things, the movie fails to live up to what the trailer promised.  You can not help but feel a little bit frustrated and a little annoyed because the premise cries out quality!
                                                                                                  Rating: ★★☆☆☆
rating:8/10

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About Ross Hughes 1915 Articles
Since my mother sat me down at the age of five years of age and watched a little called Halloween, I have been hooked on horror. There is no other genre that gets me excited and takes me to the edge of entertainment. I watch everything from old, new, to cheap and blockbusters, but I promise all my readers that I will always give an honest opinion, and I hope whoever reads this review section, will find a film that they too can love as much as I do! Have fun reading, and please DO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!!

1 Comment

  1. Can’t say I disagree with any of that mate, you hit the nail on the head perfectly and even thoguh I praised the film a lot, I did also mention that it loses it’s way. The build up is what I really REALLY loved, and even though when the issues with the exits started to happen, I was still enjoying the frights and was prepared to ignore that issue to carry on enjoying the film. I must say though, far too much was shown come the end, and I did mention that too, but for all its issues, I have seen four people now watch it in front of me, behind their pillows or screaming like babies! Proof then, that it does scare, it just went too far come the end and, as you quite rightly said, did not delvier on its ultimate promise. Saying that though, the early scares in the film are bloody well executed.

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  1. A sequel to Grave Encounters is on its way, are you brave enough to enter that creepy hospital again? (UPDATE: Director named & artwork revealed!!) » Horror Cult Films - Movie Reviews of Obscure, Weird, Strange, Horror and Cult Cinema

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