Last night, while sifting aimlessly through Netflix, I discovered Grave Encounters by The Vicious Brothers.
This is one of your run o’ the mill “found footage”/”mockumentary” horror flicks. The whole “no guys…this is REALLY REALLY REAL footage that we REALLY FOUND!” is a kitsch that only the most witless of horror viewers would fall for. Regardless, with that in mind you just have to accept it for it’s form, suspend your disbelief, and grab some popcorn.
The leading actor, when he is portraying his “paranormal investigator host” character, is quite insufferable. I know that’s supposed to be the point, but within the first 5 minutes of the film I was ready to turn it off, just because of the way he portrayed paranormal investigators. Or rather, how the actor thought his character would think a paranormal investigator would act. I know movies like this have that dose of melodrama that nearly make the mockery permissible….but this guy was making us look bad.
Or rather…the actor’s character’s portrayal of a fake paranormal investigator…was making us look bad.
(These sentences are making me write bad…..poorly. You get my point.)
After the crew of token arrogant guy, token girl, token ambiguous-sexuality guy, token ethnic guy, and token techno-sidekick are finally “locked into” their haunted location, everything FINALLY starts to pick up.
(The first half was so slow, I actually started doing my taxes while watching because that was more interesting.)
But I digress, there WERE some strong points! But sadly, most if not all these strong points were re-creations of successful horror stories/films of this same genre. For example, one of the first “scares” they utilize was partially (clearly) taken from The Blair Witch Project. Obviously similar in form with the “found footage” horror genre. Others were simply “horror cop-outs” that were vastly predictable. But slowly it began to pick up again.
The team found that the building they were in kept “changing” and “morphing” around them. They would go through a door that says “exit” only to end up in another hall way, etc. While this is a spooky and very effective plot twist…the concept is nearly entirely ripped from an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and possibly several other scripts. 🙁
A few stronger scares here and there were sadly coupled with EXTREMELY cliche’ ones. (Open and slamming doors….really guys? Windows too? Really?) But then as the story goes on there ARE a few aspects that I really DID like.
(I’m not all mean, I promise.) 🙂
Not to give too many spoilers but, the characteristics of time itself is one. I love movies where time is manipulated. It immediately molds the surreal and the real together in a beautifully disorientating mess. Another is the use of desperation as a source of characters internal conflict and arc. Which inevitably leads to chaos, mutiny, and a guy eating a freshly dead rat with his bare hands.
Eventually Grave Encounters won me back over, and lent itself to a more creative ending…far removed from it’s sarcastic mockery of an introduction. And I’m very glad it did. I am always skeptical when I’m watching a “newer-era” horror movie. I am a fan of the classics because so many of today’s horror films are simply regurgitation’s of the past.
I will say though, that out of all the “found footage” horror films I’ve seen, this one is actually among the strongest. Probably my third place winner. With “Blair Witch” in second, and “Diary of the Dead” in first. (Only because it bears Romero’s name.) “Paranormal Activity” doesn’t even place in my book. (Those film enrage me. But that’s a whole other story.)
If you want an accurate portrayal of a paranormal investigation, don’t watch this film. If you want to see paranormal investigators being made fun of, locked inside a building, swear every five seconds, slowly loose their minds, and suffer through nearly every cliche before finally resolving their story with dark humor, blood, and a dead rat? Than yes. Give Grave Encounters a chance. 🙂