Grave Encounters (2011)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 11:32 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011) - The Vicious Brothers

As mentioned before in my past reviews on found footage films, this entire genre of first person camera usage erupted into the industry due to the release of The Blair Witch Project. Described by critics as "absolutely terrifying," the film takes advantage of the setting, giving the audience a sense of claustrophobia out in the open -- an infinite span of forest. Now what if the claustrophobia sense is taken back to its original roots -- a building where you simply cannot get out of? Welcome to the indoor version of The Blair Witch Project. Welcome to Grave Encounters.

Declared to be a horror cult since its release, Grave Encounters begins with a television producer, who describes how the fictional paranormal reality television show Grave Encounters was canceled after five episodes. The film itself follows the crew of the television program, who put themselves in an eight-hour lockdown in a haunted psychiatric hospital in search of evidence of paranormal activity. This "footage" is claimed to be raw footage from the sixth and final episode of their show. Of course, as time progresses, everything goes wrong.

Like every horror film should do in its first act, Grave Encounters efficiently builds its atmosphere within its narrative. As if it is a ghostly setup, the film's first act invites us in just like the psychiatric hospital inviting in the crew. We as the audience naturally step in, and we become trapped into the terror with the characters. The screenplay may not be the best in the horror genre, and it may lack originality, but it is simplistic and blunt enough to deliver. All the director needs now is strong execution to make this seemingly cliche film appear original once again.

The acting here is solid, may not be powerhouse performances but they are undoubtedly natural enough to make the film feel realistic, although I never truly cared for them from beginning to end; the reason is because we never have time to bond with them and warm up to them. In the big picture, the dialogue is naturally delivered as well, if only the movie can cut down half of the f-words being used. In agreeing with New York Times, "The uniformly annoying characters stumble around, screaming and cursing, [and] we don't give a hoot for their survival." I understand, they are all panicked, but there are times where they are all just being stupid and people start to not think logically. In addition, it is possible that the cast of characters can be seen as a bit irritating due to their vulgar language. That being said, the scares themselves make up for the flaws within characterization and any holes in the script.

This psychiatric hospital is more than just haunted. It is alive. This is the maze from Stephen King's The Shining meets Stephen King's Rose Red. As for the scares themselves, this is Paranormal Activity meets [REC] meets The Blair Witch Project. Despite the fact that the film's best scares are visual-based, they are efficiently builded up by suspense and tension in the first and second act. Then again, the tension might be cut off once in a while by the annoying cast. It seems here that the filmmakers' goal is to make the scariest movie ever out of a cliche premise. In certain ways, it worked. Look at the film's cult status, it is the most talked about horror film in recent years, comparable to Insidious, and the release of Grave Encounters 2 is approaching.

To be clear, Grave Encounters is not an original movie. The whole film bears the atmosphere of the typical "been there, done that." Like I said, it is practically three other horror movies thrown into a blender. However, it is completely edge-of-your-seat thrilling once the scares begin to kick in. The film takes great advantage of location. The psychiatric hospital is the last place I would wanna be, alongside the locked down apartment in [REC], and….…practically every location in found-footage films.

In conclusion, Grave Encounters is a great unoriginal scare. It deserves its cult status for simply being one of the more successful films that achieved its goal: to get under our skin. However, it is not the greatest horror film of all time. It is scary, but that does not mean it is a piece of cinematic genius. The movie is a straightforward low-budget horror film that makes you have the chills, the shivers, and of course, some grave encounters.

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