Grave Encounters – Review
Because MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore, they had to fill the airwaves with reality crap, but there was one breathe of fresh air on that station from 2000-2002 called MTV’s Fear. Taking the popular reality show conventions, and flipping them, Fear proved to be a scary must-watch delight, and a precursor to horror’s favorite new sub-genre – the “found footage” genre. The show placed contestants in haunted locations, gave them tasks to complete, and their only help was themselves and their night vision camera. Grave Encounters is a feature film version of this, while sending up popular ghost shows like Ghost Hunters and proving itself to be far, far scarier than Paranormal Activity.
What works so well in Grave Encounters, a terrific no-budget debut from The Vicious Brothers, is that it follows the conventions of the genre, almost worn out by [REC] sequels, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism, and of course, The Blair Witch Project, and infuses it with vicious supernatural elements. For some films, a door moving or a loud thump is the source of its scares, but The Vicious Brothers aren’t interested in such rudimentary typecast scares. While showing how reality TV has become rather scripted, The Vicious Brothers are also skeptical of the “found footage” genre, and are keen on giving smart horror fans a real jolt of terror.
The story is simple, because it needs to be. A popular TV show is gearing up for their next episode at the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, and while filming and even staging certain moments, are caught up and trapped in the hospital. One key thing the directors do, is allow the camera lights, along with the night vision, to capture a truly wonderful location where they filmed at. The green light of the night vision instantly adds depth to the rooms and immediately instills tension. With suspense, you need a payoff, and Grave Encounters has plenty of little climaxes that should make you scream. Doors moving and shadows creeping are absent, and instead, and it’s one of the film’s best new elements to the genre, is the supernatural boo’s are manifested into some really pissed off ghosts.
Familiarity both helps Grave Encounters and somewhat hurts it, but this wasn’t made to convert the naysayers of this genre. The abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital is place I don’t want to visit. Featuring a scare-a-minute finale, Grave Encounters is a fun thrill ride, no matter the similar notes to The Blair Witch or the Silent Hill video games. Where as the slasher genre in the 1980s burned itself out, so did the teen-horror-parody in the 1990s, and the zombie genre in the 2000s, the “found footage” genre might be heading that way too soon, but it won’t be Grave Encounters fault.