Grave Encounters DVD Review
Written by Sharon Davies
DVD released by Momentum Pictures
Written and Directed by The Vicious Brothers
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 92 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 23rd April 2012
Sean Rogerson as Lance
Juan Riedinger as Matt
Ashleigh Gryzko as Sasha
Mackenzie Gray as Houston
Merwin Mondesir as T.C
If there’s an abandoned mental asylum, in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Grave Encounters!
Set in the premise of discovered footage, where the victims are apparently missing and this recording is being shown simply to shed light on their bitter demise, the plot is similar to the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity films.
The footage finds the team of cheesy ghost hunters “Grave Encounters” at the abandoned Collingwood psychiatric Hospital in Maryland. The team comprises head presenter Lance, who sashays his way across the plot with his team of cameramen and technicians T.C, Sasha and Matt. They attempt to build up the validity of the supposed haunted building, including bribing gardeners and hiring a fake psychic named Houston to put the show together. After requesting their overnight lock-in within the hospital, the team learns about its dark history and the events which have happened before.
There are familiar tales of evil and malevolence of the suffering ex inmates of the hospital, tormented by Dr Arthur Friedkin who used the patients in torturous experiments and lobotomies. As the inmates attempted to escape they murdered the good Doctor and thus began the seed of evil in the now deserted building. What starts off as a slow burner for the team slowly builds to literally hair raising events and we see recording from several cameras which builds the realism that these ghost hunters will actually find what they are looking for.
As the evil within the walls begin to manifest further, and the team realise they have bitten off more than they can chew, they cling on to the hope that at 6am the caretaker will be back to let them out. A hope which is ultimately futile as the hospital itself turns into a maze and the night becomes their tomb. Half way through the film is where it all ramps up and as the psychiatric hospital attempts to commit new patients into its chambers, the team must try and fight its ex residents and madness itself in an effort to survive.
Now, as any self respecting horror fan would do, I really did try to set the scene, I closed the curtains and watched this film in complete darkness. With this in mind the film cleverly builds tension and as the proverbial poo hits the fan I did find myself jumping in my seat (whether this would happen in the clear light of day is another matter).
The acting is good, but doesn’t have that stark raw quality that Blair Witch and Paranormal did, however these are actors playing cheesy ghost hunters, playing up to camera in a movie, so I may be being a little harsh there. I guess the main missing point for me is in previous similar films I really cared about the characters and what happens to them whereas in this I found that a little lacking.
However, there are fantastic qualities to this production; the set is flawless and truly creepy, the special effects are pretty great, especially considering this was made for under half a million dollars. I almost want to say that considering this is The Vicious Brothers first movie that their writing, directing, special effects, casting etc is really an effort to be proud of, but I don’t want to sell them short. When stood up against ,similar films it really does pack a punch regardless of the directors’ experience and I’m sure with more money they could have had a similar cult hit such as [REC]. The directorial duo are obvious film fans and again there are elements of humour (even an utterance of “Houston what’s your problem?) and real close attention to detail in parts. Favourite scenes include a tongue-less ghost, a cringe worthy incident with Lance and a rat plus the rather cool although slightly predictable ending.
So with all this in mind, if you ‘get’ this sort of movie, enjoy a first person aspect and the sudden and abrupt ending that goes hand in hand, then I have no doubt that this low budget piece will be enjoyable viewing – however if this isn’t your cup of tea then you might want to leave Grave Encounters on the shelf.
Video and Audio:
With the whole documentary style shoot in mind this has been taken a little to the extreme and at times it seems almost painful the amount of zooming in and out plus shaky hand held camera shots., However, the use of night cam mode and various camera positions are excellent and allow the audience to see all elements of the trouble building around the new inmates.
This is supposedly unedited (other than for time reasons) footage so there is no soundtrack or music to speak of other than the initial intro music to the Grave Encounters program itself. The thick silences shattered by piercing screams add to the tricks of the trade on this format of film.
These include a Trailer (which I would advise you NOT to watch until you have seen the film, as it showcases many of the money shots), plus a 10 minute Behind the Scenes piece where the directors and lead cast members discuss the background of the film, the casting, location, shooting and visual effects of the movie.