When a television crew for the fictitious “Grave Encounters” shoot an episode in an old abandoned Psychiatric Hospital, they had no idea that the tricks and audience manipulation that the show incorporated would give way to a terrifying ordeal where real ghosts and paranormal activity will have them racing for their lives. That’s the idea behind the new found footage film Grave Encounters, a film that will likely take some searching to find, but is well worth the effort thanks to a hauntingly frightening final half.
The Grave Encounters crew consists of four individuals – Lance, Matt, Sasha and Houston. Lance is the face of Grace Encounters and is the unofficial leader of the group. While the other’s hold cameras or play their acted roles in the paranormal fraud, Lance orchestrates the show instructing others on what to shoot or calling out the spirits in an attempt to have them show themselves.
For effect, the crew is locked within the Hospital for the evening. The doors are chained and the caretaker informs them that he will be back in the morning to release the catches. The group immediately takes a tour of the facility, recording as they move through the darkened hallways and rooms and calling out for the spirits that are rumored to be haunting the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital.
At sometime throughout the night, things begin to appear on camera – a wheelchair is moved or a window is opened. These small incidents of paranormal evidence are nothing compared to the events the crew will encounter over the length of their ordeal. With escape impossible and with the facility seemingly adapting in labyrinth of hallways and fake exits, the scares become horrors as each of the four members suffer fates by the will of the entities that haunt the corridors.
Directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is another in what seems like a long stream of films attempting to cash in on the popularity of Paranormal Activity. But where most have failed (My Little Eye, Redacted), Grave Encounters proves that there is still some life to be drained from the damp genre sponge.
That’s not to suggest that Grave Encounters is not without issue. The first quarter of the film seems forced and the characters seemed hardly believable as television personalities. I don’t so much blame the actors themselves as I do the dialogue that may or may not have been improvised (either way, it didn’t come across as authentic).
When the four begin their night’s stay in the hospital, the acting takes a back seat to the reacting to various scares and spooks most of which are effective with some being out and out bloodcurdling. An introduction to the film had us concluding that none of the four participants in the stunt were found alive so the fate of each character becomes something of a ‘guess who’s next’ and The Vicious Brothers effectively move things along while generally keeping the hand held cameras steady amongst all the chaos.
Grave Encounters ends up being one of the scarier films of the year. Like most found footage films, you have to buy into the premise early, but if you do, the payoff could be immense. And watching the film in the middle of the night in a darkened room is sure to give you goosebumps – even as the characters hurdle their phony introductions.