Grave Halloween Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Written by Ryan W. Smith
2013, 89 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 27th October 2014
Kaitlyn Leeb as Maiko
Cassie Thomson as Amber
Dejan Loyola as Terry
Graham Wardle as Kyle
J-Horror, made-for-TV American style. A gang of young aspiring filmmakers travel to a remote Japanese woodland known as 'Suicide Forest' to record a documentary about their friend's quest to find her mother's body (in a slightly less creepy Who Do You Think You Are way, as opposed to looking for an actual decomposing corpse). It's not long at all before the gang are bumped off one by one; attacked by an angry dark haired ghost determined to make them suffer.
Grave Halloween (the 'Halloween' part of the title has nothing to do with anything) is essentially a cabin in the woods movie without the cabin. There's no disputing the woods though; Suicide Forest being a real place in Japan and everything. Its real-life location, local flavour and folklore, however, comes second to a fairly typical Syfy ghost story with maybe a little more bloodshed than we're used to from the channel.
It looks the part at least, with Suicide Forest appearing suitably dark and Gothic, the kids about as young and pretty as you'd expect. That's about where its merits begin and end though. The characterisation leaves much to be desired (being either over-earnest or annoying) while its local ghost (technically a spoiler, but not really) speaks with the accompaniment of a mystic 'bong' sound whenever he finishes a sentence. The Japanese location could have given Grave Halloween a real edge over the competition – playing up that element of the story making it feel a lot more original and interesting than it actually is. Aside from a couple of local characters who wander in and out of the story and a few signposts, the whole thing could have taken place in any grimy woodland anywhere in the world. Writer Ryan W. Smith squanders any opportunity for originality or any sense of energy, merely having his characters spend most of their time wandering about aimlessly until it's time to kill or be killed.
This, the film manages to do well. While the special effects aren't in any way groundbreaking (being downright bad in places) it's surprisingly nasty for a Syfy feature, giving Grave Halloween its few legitimately decent moments. To be fair, 'nasty' is something director Steven R. Monroe knows well, being the talent behind the repulsive I Spit on your Grave remake and its doubly depressing sequel. At the very least, Grave Halloween is better than such miserable crap, and more technically proficient than his Syfy creature features. Grave Halloween is maybe Monroe's most palatable movie to date. Although the last film of his I saw was a rape/revenge movie with about an hour of rape and a really rubbish 'revenge' at the end, so that's not exactly difficult.
Despite my damning it with very faint praise, Grave Halloween isn't all so bad. Sure, it's dull, confusing and frequently annoying, but it remains one of Syfy's more tolerable productions. Hey, at least it's not found footage.