One more “found footage” horror flick comin’ at ya. Grave Encounters is the name of a television show much like Ghost Hunters. A team of investigators are exploring an abandoned insane asylum that had a rep for the mistreatment of their paitents. The footage is presented in its raw pre-editted form to show the viewers the full story regarding the disappearance of said team. This is how the audience discovers that this reality show doesn’t always go for what’s real. Their psychic (Mackenzie Gray, The Hitcher 2) is actually just an actor. The producer/host Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson, Underworld: Evolution) would love for some real paranormal activity to happen. But, if it doesn’t, faking it is just as good. The aim is mostly for good TV. And, when it does all seems to be real, at first it’s thrilling. But, terror soon creeps in when the team realizes they can’t leave the asylum and time seems to have stopped completely. Also, one team member (Juan Riedinger, Jennifer’s Body) turns up missing. Panic ensues. This is where the film falls apart for me.
This movie is by far the closest at mimicking the tone and overall feeling of The Blair Witch Project since the “found footage” wave of flicks began. It also shares one of BWP’s problems: over-acting–in this case a lot of yelling–due to under directing. Heather Donahue–who I believe is a fine actor–did most, if not all of the over-acting in that film. In this one we don’t get just one actor over doing it once in a while; we get two of them pouring it on pretty thick. First, T. C. the cameraman (Merwin Mondesir, Godsend) starts up and never tones it down. Then Lance chimes in at a later point. It started to seem like these two were in a contest to see who can out do the other in hamming it up. I was getting annoyed with just one of them doing it. Just imagine what I felt when a second actor decided he needed to do the same. There’s a point when a director–in this case two directors, the Vicious Brothers–needs to rein in their actors. Take charge. Or, trim it down in the editing room. And, honestly, fellow cast member Ashleigh Gryzko has her hammy moments as well.
This all starts roughly around the half way mark in the movie. This is also where it seems to lose its structure. We are treated with running around and yelling by cast members. Some quiet moments sprinkled in between these. If you really want to say there’s a structure here, it would have to be the ever increasing intensity of encounters the team is subject to. There are good moments in the film, with the right intentions from the makers; but, I found it mostly tedious to sit through. I kept on thinking it would’ve been better if this was done as a proper film and not a “found footage” POV movie. Much of the light sources are the lights on the cameras. This causes an effect that appears like one is watching the movie through a keyhole. I hated the feeling I got from this style of shooting.
I believe the Vicious Brothers writing/directing team do show promise. But, Grave Encounters was mostly an unpleasant experience for me.
The Film Rating: 2 Stars out of 5
–Charles T. Cochran