Oct 1, 2012

[Movies] Grave Encounters (2011)

I think I start almost every review of a horror movie with the disclaimer about how much I don't like horror movies. They try too hard to scare and shock me and I know I tend to fall into that trap fairly well. And this is probably why my friends love to make me watch horror movies since I'm so visibly affected, no matter how bad the movie actually is.

Given that, if I am going to watch a horror movie, I'd like to hope that at it is, at least, a good movie. Then again, who goes into a movie experience hoping for it to be bad, right? I think it's a fair expectation. The movie needs to work on the basis of its premise and has to have a decently plausible plot with competent actors.

This didn't feel like that at all.

Instead this movie felt like a weird marriage of different horror tropes put together, thus we get the natural progression of movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity being so successful. You get the wannabes and the rip-offs who try to justify bad production value on their shoestring budget or some other silly artistic rationalization.

And the movie didn't really scare me, to top it all off.

Synopsis: Grave Encounters is a 2011 horror movie that is reportedly being touted as a cult success somehow. It was written and directed by The Vicious Brothers (Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz). The movie had premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

We first meet Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson), the producer of the now-cancelled ghost hunting show Grave Encounters. Jerry goes on to explain to a limited degree why the show was canceled after only 5 episodes by showing us the supposedly raw footage of the sixth, unaried episode. Thus we meet the Grave Encounters team, consisting of host Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), occult specialist Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko), technical expert Matt (Juan Riedinger), and cameraman T.C. Gibson (Merwin Mondesir). For this final episode, they also have special guest star psychic medium Houston Grey (Mackenzie Gray) as part of the team for their current investigation.

The team is off to investigate the now-abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where supposedly unexplained events keep getting reported. At first their investigation seems to reveal very little apart from anecdotal history relating to the hospital and perhaps a few paid statements about things going bump in the night. So it becomes more and  more clear that the team are a bunch of fakes, but of course this will be the one time they've finally hit paydirt, as it were. And when they decide to lock themselves in for the night in order to determine if there are ghosts indeed haunting the hospital, naturally things start to go downhill from there.

The movie tries to capitalize on the whole "found footage" style of filmmaking that has become popular as a way to pass off "cheap" as "authentic" when it comes to movies. And it's rather annoying how the movie isn't even consistent in how they depict this since a lot of the things that they do just don't make sense. It's obvious that the night vision shots are just green-tinted and not actually shot in the dark. It's also ridiculous how even when things are at their supposed "scariest" and the team is running for their lives, they still take the time to put the camera down in strategic locations to film themselves doing whatever. As much as they were supposedly committed to capturing their experiece on tape, I don't think it was reasonable to have them manage to "drop" cameras quickly and yet still manage to have it at an angle that leave sets up the prefect shot for the action. We even have moments when characters go to investigate potentially scary things and drop possible improvised weapons (like a pipe) in favor of picking up the camera again.

The movie has way too many tropes of the found footage horror movie genre including the mysterious injuries that they'll document on camera, the need for the crazy running sequence that has us undercertain as to what is going on and the rare shot of just the character's feet, in order to prove that not all camera shots are ideal. Oh, and of course we have the missing team member and the team member who has to go crazy first. All we needed to complete the picture was for him to start rambling that it's "game over man" or something like that.

The build-up of the premise is ridiculously slow and we spend what feels like half the movie waiting for something scary to happen. And when things do start to happen, they're the non-scary movement in the corner of the screen type of activities way before the serious ghostly stuff comes into play. All we know is that they hospital was full of mental patients at one time and that a doctor was conducting unethical procedures on them. Therefore, the place is haunted - that's all the explanation that you're ever going to get.

The hospital is also the cleaned old, abadoned facility that I've ever seen. There are many cases when only a single prop seems old (e.g. a bathtub in the middle of the room) whereas the walls themselves look like they were freshly painted. It's these little details and breaks in the consistency of the internal logic of the movie that makes things so silly. And the ghosts themselves look like the type of things we find in shock videos on the internet where we are made to "watch closely" for some obscure detail in what seems to be a happy moment only to have a ghostly face appear out of nowhere.

Grave Encounters was such a bad movie all the way through that we spent more time pointing out the inconsistencies than just being able to immerse ourselves in the narrative. I don't see how ths is a cult classic unless there are a lot of folks out there with a very different definition of scary. So I can only rate this movie as 1 silly ghostly creature out of a possible 5.

And sadly, there's already a sequel due to be released October 2012.

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