October 18, 2011
The Vicious Brothers
The Vicious Brothers
Sean Rogerson as Lance Preston
Juan Riedinger as Matt White
Ashleigh Gryzko as Sasha Parker
Mackenzie Gray as Houston Gray
Ever since The Blair Witch Project (1999) proved to the world that a cheap Indie horror film shot with a hand-held camera can go on to make millions internationally, POV horror has become a staple in the landscape. Even the studio productions got into the act with films such as Cloverfield which seek the same look and feel, albeit with larger budgets, as these simple little slices of “reality”. Paranormal Activity (2007) pulled it off again when this cheap handi-cam film went on to make a boatload of money and spawn (at least) two sequels, Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) andParanormal Activity 3 (currently in production, slated for release October 21, 2011). There are hundreds, if not thousands of home made Indie horror films in existence today that use this particular method of filming, and sporting a “found footage” plot line, the most recent of which is the Tribeca Film release Grave Encounters.
“Grave Encounters” is a reality ghost-hunting show where we follow host Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and his crew of ghost hunters into some of the most “haunted” places on earth and watch him preen for the camera and feign fright when Geiger-counters click their evidence that ghosts exist. Something went wrong at the last location though, and the producer of the series begins Grave Encounters with an assurance that what we are about to see is not altered in any way, other than being edited for time. What we see is the found footage from a night locked in the presumably spirit-ridden Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. This footage is all that is left as the cast and crew of the show are all now dead or missing.
Grave Encounters has some great pacing and tension building elements, leading to a final 1/3 that is completely over the top and scary as hell. There are subtle scary ghostly moments, but some very overt and direct scares as well, all filmed from the perspective of a hand-held camera. The effects and ghost shots are exceptional, just about all of them. Real “yell out loud” stuff.
The biggest distraction in this film comes from the execution of the concept itself, the filming of a ghost-hunter show gone wrong. The characters filming the show are not very convincing as actual performers in a ghost-hunting program. First of all they were not particularly comfortable or inspired in the scenes of the show – a bit stiff and not at all what one would expect when watching a reality show of this type. These are obviously actors playing the part of ghost hunters rather than actual ghost hunters, so the illusion is shattered right off the bat. Beyond that, it is clear that none of these folks have actually had any real ghostly experiences themselves, in spite of their starring roles in the show. When the first evidence of haunting comes about they are all so terrified and panicky that one wonders why they got into this business in the first place. Granted, some off-camera banter with the resident “psychic” makes it clear that Grave Encounters is designed to be a bit of a spoof of reality shows of this type, making it clear that nobody really believes in what they are doing.
Overall Grave Encounters is terrifying once the ghosts come out and begin picking off the characters one by one. The scenes leading up to the action are less interesting and believable and frankly must be endured to get to the “good stuff”.