I’m not a big fan of ghost hunting-type shows (many border on being obnoxious), so I was happy to watch a movie that uses the platform for horror and, to some extent, for parody.
“Grave Encounters” is a found-footage movie that centers on a group of paranormal investigators led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson). He is joined by Sahsa (Ashleigh Gryzko), T.C. (Merwin Mondesir), Matt (Juan Riedinger) and a fake psychic named Houston (Mackenzie Gray). They are investigating the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, a very imposing building that is supposedly haunted.
The crew sets up cameras throughout the facility and does the typical walk-about and instrument readings that are common for such shows. They are locked in, again a common theme, and begin their investigation.
It’s obvious early on that none of the crew believes anything paranormal will occur as they have already filmed five episodes of the show with nothing supernatural happening at any of the other locales used. As the night progresses, increasingly strange and horrible things begin to happen to all involved.
The crew attempts to escape the hospital, but it’s never that easy, is it? A few spoilers ahead.
Some nice jumps were laced through the movie. It started off a tad slowly but once the action started, it kept going and the pace steadily intensified. The last 25 minutes were the best part of the film. The tension was palpable, and I felt a sense of claustrophobia while watching. The anxiety keeps getting ratcheted up until the very end, and this was an extremely effective tool.
The very last scene was nicely done and was appropriate for the film. Also, the location used for the movie was the perfect choice. Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, has been used in many TV and film productions, and it has the right level of creepiness.
The performances overall were fine, but the standout was Sean Rogerson. At first I thought he was chewing the scenery, even though his performance was kind of a “nod and a wink” parody of paranormal show hosts. As the movie progresses and the situation becomes increasingly dire for the crew, Rogerson’s performance goes from egotistical host to frightened, exhausted and confused man who just wants out.
Rogerson also plays the voyeuristic side of his character well, with Lance wanting to document the crew’s experiences for anyone who finds the recordings. There’s a particular scene in which this side of his personality is over it, and it’s a funny moment in an otherwise tension laden part of the movie.
I generally have problems with found-footage films because I get really queasy, but that wasn’t a problem for me in this movie as there were enough static shots to keep my stomach from churning.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Some of the effects were on the cheesy side. One effect in particular grabbed my attention as I saw a YouTube video that used the same technique before this film was made. It involves multiple hands and arms reaching out from the walls and the ceiling. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same gag in at least one other horror movie, and it really needs to not be used anymore.
I didn’t connect with all of the characters as much I would have liked, but I don’t think I was supposed to, so I can excuse this to some extent. Also, the group makes some dumb choices that are typical of characters in too many horror films.
My one other beef was the divergence from haunted hospital into something more. There’s a scene toward the end of the film in which Lance finds evidence of something that wasn’t really touched on in the beginning except in passing. I would have liked to have seen this more neatly wrapped into the early narrative when he was interviewing the people who knew about the hospital’s history.
The gore was low- to mid-range, with blood here and there and some photos that show cut open bodies; however, there is one very disturbing scene involving a rodent.
There was no real nudity, just one girl showing her back and a guy in a hospital gown and underwear. There’s profanity all over the place, but wouldn’t you cuss if you were stuck in a place that was trying to kill you?
It’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of found-footage-style films, and the last 25 minutes make it all worthwhile.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“Grave Encounters” (2011) was written and directed by Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan, credited as The Vicious Brothers. It stars Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Merwin Mondesir, Juan Riedinger and Mackenzie Gray.