“The scariest movie you’ve never seen”.
That’s how I’ve heard Grave Encounters described…that’s a whole lot of pressure to live up to.
Grave Encounters is filmed in the ever popular ‘found footage’ format & details what will be final episode for the paranormal reality television program, Grave Encounters. Hosted by Lance Preston the show is your run of the mill ghostly goings-on show. The kind that was really popular in the early-to-mid 00’s. The show’s host & his crew go into well known haunted places & attempt to film & interact with ghosts & spirits.
The show was cancelled after its fifth episode & the footage for the partially completed sixth disappeared…until now.
Lance & his crew are going to investigate the Collingwood Mental Asylum that is notorious for its supposed paranormal activity. The Grave Encounters gang are planning to spend the night in the asylum filming & trying to communicate with the dead. Early we get an idea of what types of scares we may be in for as the crew are taken for a tour around the complex by the caretaker who explains some of the paranormal events that are said to have taken place.
The crew set up a number of static cameras around the ‘hot-spots’ (a window that opens by itself, a bathtub that a female patient is said to have killed herself in) & settle down for the night.
As the night draws on we see just what happened to the crew of the Grave Encounters show through the static cameras, hand-held cameras & photographs. Collingwood Mental Asylum is a haunted place but what the crew uncover is something no-one expected.
I really don’t want to spoil the story for you so I’ll stop there, it probably reads like your generic knock-off of Paranormal Activity/Blair Witch Project & it is but it is the best I’ve seen since Blair Witch.
Now those who read my reviews regularly will know of my distain for found footage movies, I’ve grown to hate them. I’ve also grown to dislike the poltergeist/paranormal style of horror where the aim is just to see how many times they can make you jump. That isn’t scary…at least in my eyes. That’s not to say all jump scares are bad, of course not. I just think they should be used sparingly & they should be used in context. That way they are a hell of a lot more effective.
My kind of scares are the ones that are built up with tension, the ones that make you wonder if you just saw that & eventually leads to a great payoff. That is why I really enjoyed the original Paranormal Activity & it is the reason why I really enjoyed Grave Encounters.
Ignoring the found-footage style it has a lot of things that I find chilling & scary such as the asylum setting. I am fascinated by insane asylums & the way in which we used to treat some of the many diseases & afflictions many years ago. Look at lobotomies as an example or electro-shock therapies. Grave Encounters has a similar theme to House on Haunted Hill with the mysterious mad-doctor doing experiments thing but uses it to much a better effect in the end.
The exploration of the asylum & seeing the pain the patients were in is way more scary then having a ghost burst out of the wall….
I also found I really enjoyed the style of filming in the end as we got insight into how the crew pretended to see or feel paranormal events & how the show would be edited together. I liked this as I am hugely cynical about real life psychics/paranormal investigators/people who talk to the dead etc.
When things take a turn it is done so subtlety that it leaves you feeling uneasy. You know what is coming & you want to see it play out. Something as innocent as a wheelchair moving behind a cameraman who is cleaning up the screen leaves you feeling decisively creeped out.
A lot of my concerns that crop up with found-footage movies were dealt with as the movie played out. I was able to enjoy it for what it was rather then commentating on some of the more stupid points (such as Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones).
It has some very impressive acting led by the excellent Lance who really gets to showcase the situation wonderfully. As time goes on & the spirits continue to mess with the group we see the descent into madness play out & it pretty damn good.
I know what you’re thinking…why don’t they just leave?
Maybe my downer on found footage movies means that I would easily be impressed by one that really tries. Maybe I’m being too generous but when I think about Grave Encounters I remember just how much I enjoyed it. Certain scenes & sequences stick in the mind & that can only be a good thing.
Is it original? No, but it does it so well.