It’s that time of year again, where those without the need to spruce themselves up in all sorts of household waste to configure some sort of costume for a night on the town may just want a quiet night in, to turn the lights off, and ignore those trick or treating nuisances and stick on a good flick in theme of the holiday: Halloween. It’s also a great time of year to put something out on social media for others to offer up some ideas of horror films you may or may not have seen, hence forth the use of these next reviews. All of which I personally feel are vastly underrated, but also either mere fun for a good scare or a genuinely good watch that may need a little more recognition than what it did upon initial release.
So, Grave Encounters.
Everything about Grave Encounters screams “terrifying”. Whether it be the classic horror setting of the abandoned hospital or asylum of sorts, or the cast of ridiculed documentary folk with the crass idea of going into such a place at night in hopes to uncover something that resembles the paranormal. Really, these people deserve what’s coming to them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun watching the terror unravel.
A ghost-hunting reality show Grave Encounters are shooting an episode in the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, a place renowned for homing unexplained phenomena. They voluntarily lock themselves inside the confines of said hospital for the night but quickly find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless corridors and hallways as they’re terrorised by the ghosts of the former patients. It becomes blatantly clear that the hospital isn’t just haunted, but the building itself has come alive. The crew and their keen host Lance Preston begin to question their own sanity.
When The Blair Witch Project ushered in an era of found footage horror back in 1999, we’ve had endless excuses of an element that’s produced far too many duds compared to roaring successes. When The Vicious Brothers imagined Grave Encounters, I can wholeheartedly imagine both penning down ideas with beers in hand on simply how to use this element to an advantage. Pair it with one of the few places nobody would ever wish to imagine themselves being locked in and hey presto, you’ve got a horror film.
The Canadian filmmakers, actually named Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, are blatant fans of the genre. Their adoration shows extensively in their pic (and it’s lesser-regarded sequel), and it’s the film’s greatest downfall – it’s far too derivative for its own good. Everything that comes you can almost guarantee you’ve seen it before. But their adoration always proves reputable as they indeed know their fans. We don’t want to wait a whole hour before a jolt in our seat, we want continual fright. If you’re going to suffice with cheap scare tactics then at least make them frequent enough for the audience to be abruptly startled so often that there’s really no time to complain and squabble over an indecent way to create actual horror.
The entire hospital is beyond frightening. Dread permeates the halls the moment the crew steps foot. They’re immediately amongst the bleak, pitch-black hallways that branch off into rooms that are scattered with sinister-looking objects that often find themselves on the ceiling by the end of the scene. It’s a madcap horror flick that plays on the found footage aspect, but breaks the authenticity after a few dodgy-looking CGI facial reconstructions of some of the hospital’s locals and a hefty chase through one of said hallways by what can only be described as that creature from the end of Rec. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Acting-wise, these are merely morsels ready for dispatch. There’s no denying what you’re in for the moment the fake Grave Encounters TV spot promo opens the film; it’s glorified cheese and an abundance of schlocky actors that follow suit. But you’re not here for the talent, and it’s rare in horror of this calibre that you’d get anything close.
Grave Encounters is the type of horror that you’ll throw on during Halloween with a group of pals and scare each other tirelessly. It’s by no means an immediate classic, but if you’re looking for something that’ll pass the time with a succession of superior jump scares, this one’s for you.
Dir: The Vicious Brothers
Scr: The Vicious Brothers
Cast: Sean Rogerson, Ben Wilkinson, Ashleigh Gryzko
Prd: Shawn Angelski
Music: Quynne Alana Paxa
DOP: Tony Mirza
Runtime: 92 minutes