It seems as though everyone and their mom has a paranormal television show and since the success of Paranormal Activity, found-footage style movies have reigned supreme. The 2011 horror, Grave Encounters, took both of those successful aspects and put a spin on their movie, presenting a parody of the genre that quickly becomes terrifying.
Grave Encounters, written and directed by The Viscious Brothers, is a found-footage horror that follows a television crew as they film an episode of their Ghost Adventures-esque paranormal series, Grave Encounters. The crew, head by the charismatic and handsome Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), locks themselves inside of an abandoned mental hospital to capture prime entertainment sure to make their series a ratings hit. What starts as a harmless situation soon takes a turn for the worst as the crew members realize that they should have left the dead in peace.
The movie had an interesting concept and put a fun spin on the typical found-footage ghost movie. Following in the footsteps of the Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures, the film not only pokes fun at the host of the show with Rogerson’s spot on impression of Zak Bagans, it comments on the genuineness and sincerity of the entire show as a whole, as well as other paranormal reality series in the genre. With so many programs being churned out today and the sometimes hard-to-believe evidence that is captured, it’s hard to take everything that it presented as fact and Grave Encounters brings the audience behind the curtain as it casually examines the issue.
After the characters and their intentions are established, the tension and the action slowly builds as small occurrences start happening throughout the night. As the night progresses, the activity increases and the crew become spooked and shocked at what they are witnessing. When a few members of the crew decide that they’ve had enough, the situation spins out of control and the production team are taken to a realm full of twists, turns, and scares as they try their best to find their way out of the dark hospital.
Although a few of the scares seemed recycled from past horror movies, particularly the final scare which was taken right out of House on Haunted Hill (1999), the film did provide some great entertainment. The humor in the beginning of the film is what initially hooked me and The Viscious Brothers did a great job at using the humor to downplay the creepiness that was to come later on in the film. The lightness of the setting in the first act allowed the directors to throw the audience off guard and make them wonder when the crew was going to meet their doom. When things do start happening, the pay off is all the better because the movie does a 180 shift.
Aside from the humor, Grave Encounters created some subtle and decent scares. The most intriguing part of the movie–and in my opinion, the most terrifying–was the idea that the crew couldn’t get out of the hospital. The individuals essentially become the mental patients that they were trying to communicate with, causing them to regret ever meddling with their spirits in the first place. The place that the characters find themselves in hasn’t really been done before, at least not in the found-footage subgenre, and it was a creative twist for the film.
The twist of setting helped me to get over some of the grievances I had with particular characters; however, I surprisingly didn’t find them to be that annoying. I enjoyed Lance and his transformation from the cocky television personality into the real, terrified and concerned human being as he captured his surroundings and did his best to lead his crew to safety. I found the reactions of T.C. (Merwin Mondesir) and Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko) to be real–over-the-top, but real. If a person was actually in the situation that they were in, they would most likely freak out, cry, scream, and swear A LOT.
Grave Encounters was interesting in the first half, moving along smoothly and keeping the audience entertained with just enough information and scares to hold onto. However, the second half of the film is where the movie starts to drag and the story becomes repetitive as the characters keep doing the same things, because there isn’t much different for them to do. The scares become tiring as well, and they begin to lose their effect as the film continues.
Although the movie loses its spark towards the end and takes a scene from another horror, the beginning of the film was good enough for me to enjoy the movie as a whole. The humor as well as the twist on setting are what helped make the movie stand out for me. I recommend watching this one alone, at night, with all of the lights off to enhance your viewing experience.