Director – The Vicious Brothers
Cast – Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray, Merwin Mondesir, Bob Rathie, Ben Wilkinson, Luis Javier, Arthur Corber
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have never been a fan or even an active watcher of the several past/present paranormal TV shows out there, mostly because they never actually show me anything concrete, so my preference is to not even bother with them. Well, when I first heard about Grave Encounters my interest was peaked due to this potentially being the first time I could watch such a “show” and actually see ghosts, even though it is merely a movie. Despite that, I went into this film with fairly-low to mediocre-at-best expectations due to most “found footage” films of recent years (Atrocious) not living up to the hype, but I am glad to say that I was dead wrong about this one, and that my expectations were greatly surpassed.
Host Lance Preston(Sean Rogerson) and the crew of “Grave Encounters”, a ghost-hunting reality television show, are filming an episode located within the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, a hot spot for unexplained phenomena over the years. Ever the entertainment guru, Lance locks himself and his crew inside the hospital for the night and sets up surveillance equipment to capture every image and sound, but they soon learn that they have vastly underestimated the hospital, and film what will eventually be their final episode.
Don’t you love it when you are given much more than you expected in a situation where more is better? I do, and Grave Encounters was my source of such pleasure. Beginning with a disclaimer from a producer stating that the following footage is real and was found after the crew mysteriously vanished, I knew from then on out to turn my brain off and just hope for the best, which is something that I never mind doing (in this genre) and suggest you do to if you decide to give this one a go.
I loved the overall storyline of a television crew going into a creepy old place and finding real horror that they never expected to come across, mostly because I just love stories set in such locations but also because it plays heavily on the fact that such “reality” television shows currently on television never actually SHOW us anything. If you allow yourself to be enveloped into the film then you can watch this film as if it were reality, which only ups the horror intake on your part, so I suggest that you do so (or at least give it a shot). Things take off fairly quickly in this 90 minute (minus credits) experience, giving us simple but effective horror at first and then consistently kicking up the horror and tension until we are given some downright awesome scares that left me jumping in my seat, something that rarely happens to me these days. The first hour of the film is solid and nearly perfect, and while the final act does slow down a bit it never stops giving us the horror, but allows for the events of the first hour to soak in until the harrowing climax. Each of our main protagonists are used in good fashion, with each adding their own positives to the experience and serving their pre-ordained purpose. Some are meant to bicker under the pressure, others to be tortured mentally and physically, and all are meant to die, so what’s not to like about this awesome character play from first-time writers/directors The Vicious Brothers. There are some silly ideas thrown into this piece that lack explanation and can be a bit illogical (even for a supernatural film), but I allowed for them as this is by no means a truly serious effort and was able to look past them without issue. To put me even more at ease about them, they were not directed/executed in silly fashion, which was a life-saver and brings me to the next great thing about this film…
The Vicious Brothers were fantastic in their directing debut, giving us perfect atmosphere by employing truly creepy sets and giving us fantastic camerawork that kept us out of the loop at just the right times, and in the loop at the right times as well. This is a rare occurrence in POV films as only the great ones use this style of filming to potential, and The Vicious Brothers did so on their first attempt. They used this great camerawork to deliver some of the best scares I have seen in recent time, and in a very simple yet creative fashion that shocked me every time as I never saw them coming, and in unashamed fashion – an indicator that they did the scares just right. While the horror was the biggest selling point, it came complimented (and aided) by good acting performances that sold the terror and the feel of such “reality” shows, which added more fun and made for even more engaging material than what was already at hand. We get a fair amount of gore thrown into this piece, which looked great and was used to good potential and in creative fashion, showing that these “brothers” really do have a solid future in the genre if they can replicate the terrific horror we were given in this debut effort.
Overall, Grave Encounters is an awesome horror experience that finally gives us a “reality” TV show giving real results, and paying for it dearly. The storyline is a cool one that despite some silly ideas still manages to stay mature in its execution, and The Vicious Brothers do a fantastic job directing this story. They managed to provide intense horror that I never saw coming nor expected, making this not only an underestimated film but one of the best I have seen this year. Highly recommended.