Grave Encounters (2011)

Contains Spoilers

The Gist: A group of paranormal investigators enter the reportedly haunted Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital to film an episode of their burgeoning ghost hunting reality show: Grave Encounters.  With a history of terror, torture and inhuman living conditions documented at the asylum, host/creator Lance Preston has high hopes of recording paranormal activity and becoming rich and famous.  As the poster tagline states: “They were searching for proof…they found it.”

The Haunted:   Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray.  Written & directed by The Vicious Brothers

My Take: Another found footage, ghost hunting offering, which was actually quite good.  The movie opens with a reality TV producer announcing that what follows is not a film but real raw footage strictly edited for time.  He states that the tapes were sent to him by creator Lance Preston (Rogerson) before the popularity of ghost hunting shows (i.e. Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State).  The footage begins with the opening of the Grave Encounters T.V. show including a monologue by Lance about his childhood being plagued by ghostly encounters and a stylized intro to the other ghost hunters.  This reminded me (and surely was intended to) of the opening of Paranormal State. Cheesy but entertaining, which is the theme for the first 30ish minutes of the film as the characters settle into the asylum, setting up equipment and conducting “eyewitness” interviews.  It takes time for anything to happen but this is not uncommon to these types of movies – Paranormal Activity takes the same approach, an approach which I am a fan of.  The haunting begins with objects moving unnoticed, elevating to doors slamming, hair touching and the inevitable disappearance of the crew one by one until only Lance is left.  Lost in tunnels running under the building with only the light from his camera to keep him sane…or not, the flick winds down. The last few minutes show Lance discovering an underground operating room still being used by the long dead torture doctor and his nurses who help Lance get better via a lobotomy.  One seemingly misplaced thing in the last sequence is when Lance is in the room and discovers a skull in a pentagram and a book filled with runes. Perhaps I missed something but I’m not sure what relevance these items have on the story.  The occult aspect didn’t seem to figure in the rest of the flick.

One part of the movie that I found interesting was how the asylum kept changing – the hallways shifted, moved and extended; the exit to the outside disappears and opens on another hallway and the door Lance finds at the end of the movie appears out of nowhere.  I found this particularly interesting as I am currently reading House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.  Another intriguing aspect is when the characters fall asleep and upon waking discover strange things have happened to them: scratches spelling out Hello are written on the female character’s back, they wake up wearing patient intake bracelets.  The movie was actually quite good despite the somewhat predictability of the story.

Critique Much: I did find this movie predictable as far as where it is going for the last scene.  Perhaps that’s just me as I compare parts of Grave Encounters to House on Haunted Hill (1999 version). Other than knowing or predicting where the flick is going and being able to anticipate some of the scares, I have no other real critiques.  The cast and acting were good, the production was also good and while the story lacked originality, it worked well because of the acting and the production.

Yah or Nah: Yes, it had predictable moments; yes it’s another found footage movie with stereotypes. No, there wasn’t anything different here but damn, I liked it anyway and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining, cat scare flick.  Grave Encounters 2 is set for an October 2012 release and I will definitely be checking out the sequel as part of my Halloween horror viewings.  Entertaining with a good creep factor thrown in.  Yah!

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