Welcome back to Netflix month! This week we’ll be venturing in the horror section to see if we can dig up some really good scares, which is a lot harder than you think it would be. On this venture deep into the somewhat slim pickings in the genre, I’ve come across an independent horror film. Often these types of films have poor cinematography, horrible special effects, and poor acting, making them more laughable than frightening. But this whole month is about finding diamonds in the rough, and this small gem might be just what you’re looking for a scary summer flick.
So if movies like The Blair Witch Project and Quarantine are up your alley, you should definitely consider Grave Encounters.
Grave Encounters begins with an introduction by the producer of a never-aired paranormal sight show called “Grave Encounters,” explaining that none of the footage we will be shown has been doctored or altered, merely cut and pasted together to make a film. The footage shows the members of the crew goofing off around the location for their next episode, a former insane asylum. They gather interviews about local history and supernatural sightings of the asylum before locking themselves in for eight hours. Soon, after interacting with the spirits and roaming the halls, the crew finds that they have been trapped inside the ever-changing walls of the asylum. As the hours turns into days the crew becomes separated and killed off, as is the way of these things, destined to become patients themselves.
Our intrepid crew of actors are surprisingly good, especially for mostly unknown actors. Our main characters include host Lance, cameraman T.C., fake medium Houston, techie Matt, and specialist Sasha. Everyone plays their roles, except Sasha but that’s because she basically does what Lance does except without talking directly to the camera. Their fear is palpable, which makes the movie all the scarier, and even though you don’t know much about them, they are easy to empathize with. If anything, it’s these characters that set it apart from all the other mockumentary garbage.
The film is shot entirely in the found footage style, so if you’re not a fan of it or shaky-cam makes you dizzy I might skip this one all together. I will say, however, the camera is mostly steady so it shouldn’t be too bad for those of you readers with motion sickness. The cinematography is pretty strong, being crystal clear for the most part, and great composition.Hopefully you don’t get sick of night vision green or dulled-camera-grey. The special effects range from great to passible. There’s a great scene where there are arms coming down from the ceiling, which looks incredibly scary. However, the blurred, warped faces of the ghosts? Those come off as just a weird photo-editting filter and only good the first time you see it. After that it’s almost laughable but I do give them points for trying to be original with their design.
There are some issues with the ending, mostly that we don’t get any answers. That is usually the way with found footage films, because you’re only seeing it from one perspective. And no, you can’t go quoting the sequel at me, that doesn’t count. What happens to Lance, the last member of the crew alive? Are the bodies ever found or are they trapped in the alternate hospital? How was the videotape found in the first place if the last tape was with Lance? Why were the bodies needed? What was supposedly going on in the walls of the asylum if it wasn’t a routine haunting? This hurts the movie overall, but not enough to make it not worth watching.
Overall, Grave Encounters may not be the best found footage horror film out there, but it’s certainly better than a lot of the other dreck that’s in that sub-genre. It has some good scares, an interesting plot line, and a strong cast. If it’s not your thing, it’s understandable, but if you do enjoy these types of films, my advice to definitely watch this one, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Just don’t watch the sequel.
– Strong acting.
– Interesting premise.
– Good cinematography.
– So-so special effects.
– Lackluster payoff.