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Grave Encounters

A movie directed by The Vicious Brothers

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An admittedly derivitive - but wholly entertaining - found footage chiller.

  • Mar 1, 2012
*** out of ****

"Grave Encounters" is like the love child of "The Blair Witch Project" and "REC". No, there aren't any zombies - or "infected, if you will - as in the latter, but like both aforementioned films, this one utilizes the Found Footage stylistic; with handheld camerawork galore. If you're not a fan of this movement in the horror genre, walk away. Walk away and keep on walking. I say this because "Grave Encounters" does not intend to try and do anything new in regards to the conventions created within its genre; which isn't really much of a complaint by me, given that it has a purpose to serve, and the film serves it well. This isn't great found footage horror, but by my standards, it's pretty good. It blends humor and satisfying scares to create a hell of a ride. It could have - and perhaps should have - been slightly better and more discreet about how it scares the audience, but hey, it is what it is.

Five crew members on a reality television show devoted to the investigation of the paranormal - the fictional Grave Encounters - pick an old, run down, and abandoned mental institution to film the 6th episode for their series. Members of the crew include: host Lance, cameraman T.C., techy Matt, psychic Houston, and expert on the supernatural, Sasha. After conducting some interviews with people who know the wide and expansive premises very well; they make an agreement with the caretaker for him to lock them in the building for the night, until six o'clock exactly, when he will release them. During that time, it's assumed that they will capture some damn good footage for the show.

The crew unpacks their supplies, sets up the night-vision cameras, sets up the ones that they shall bring with them everywhere, and assume their individual positions. Initially, they split up and visit some of the hotspots that the caretaker had pointed out to them when he gave the group a tour earlier on that day. The assumption is that there really are no ghosts in this facility, and the crew will have to make their own evidence, just as they have for all five other episodes. We go into the movie knowing that all footage is fake (the trailer itself shows an obvious CGI shot); and that the characters within the film know that their show is faux as well. But the found footage aspect is supposed to imitate and create some sort of impending realism; and here, that's just what it does.

Nothing happens for a while. These characters walk through the dark halls of the ward, searching for activity, sounds; anything. Eventually, doors start slamming, windows start opening, and voices are heard on the EP recordings when they are successfully played back on the machine. Even then, the crew members don't know whether to take their findings seriously, and they even assume that it might be someone who is aware of what they intend to do that night in this place; trying to mess with them, pull some pranks, or whatnot. But, I would imagine that all three of those things and beyond would be eliminated when chairs are lifted in mid-air and ghostly girls stand against the wall - only to turn around and rear their ugly, pale, demonic special effects faces.

I'll admit that the film does show a bit too much; and therefore it's hardly ever as frightening as it may want to be. But if you can put that aside, and maybe some other noticeable flaws in the characters and the illogical things that they do and say, you might just find that "Grave Encounters" is a pretty enjoyable horror flick. Indeed, I was pretty scared when I was watching it; the found footage style rendered the footage raw, tense, and creepy. The suspense has range - it can build slowly and smartly, while other times, the movie would rather just cut to the chase - and the scares do too (I guess), even though most of them are designed for the faint of heart and the genuinely jumpy. But these are fun, well-conceived scares; and this is a fun, well-conceived movie. It's probably one of the high points in 2011's year of horror.

Unless you're too cynical to be entertained by an interesting, engaging spin on the found footage gimmick, I'd highly suggest this film to anyone who simply wants to be creeped out big time for about an hour and a half. If it is something more that you desire, then you might want to think twice about spending a night with the Grave Encounters team; although the horror-faithful shouldn't have those complaints when they walk in. I've grown to accept the found footage sub-genre because on many levels, it either agrees with me or it doesn't; if it does, then there's a strong indication that some talented people are behind it. "Grave Encounters" was directed by the Vicious Brothers; who are, as far as I know, currently unidentified as far as their identity goes. One wonders whether they'll ever show up, take credit for the impressive work that they've done here, and make another movie. I also wonder how much fun the editor for Grave Encounters, the show, had when it came to censoring all the profanity either uttered or screamed. Because there are just certain things that the cable broadcasting fat cats don't tolerate.

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March 05, 2012
Agreed on all points. Well done review.
More Grave Encounters reviews
review by . February 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The TV Show That Cried
Horror movies have found a new style meant to instill terror and give the viewer a feeling of ‘reality’ with the first person cinematography or otherwise more known as the handheld camera gimmick in “The Blair Witch Project”, the Spanish blockbuster “[REC]” and the more recent “Paranormal Activity” franchise. Sure, there are some imitators such as “Cloverfield” and the “The Last Exorcism“. I rather thought that the handheld …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Grave Encounters is a 2011 Canadian-American supernatural horror film shot in the found footage style where it is recorded by a video camera in a first person point of view. Written and directed by The Vicious Brothers, the film premiered on April 22, 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival to favorable reviews. The film was released on August 25, 2011 in select theaters using the Eventful Demand It and Video On Demand via Comcast. The film premiered internationally in Italy via distributor Eagle Pictures retitled ESP Fenomeni Paranormali on June 1, 2011.

Grave Encounters received mixed reviews from critics. While the New York Press granted it the "Scariest Film Since The Ring", other reviews were not as favorable. FleshEatingZipper wrote, "...this bastard child of The Blair Witch Project and House on Haunted Hill provides less scares than both combined." The rating website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a mixed rating of 43%.- from wikipedia.org

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