Ectovember: Grave Encounters on a Ghostwatch
Grave Encounters is set up like a found footage film with a tacked on beginning featuring a producer who has been sent a tape of a proposed series called, you guessed it, Grave Encounters. Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) leads his team of paranormal investigators into Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, a site where supernatural phenomena has been reported for years. The hospital has a history of murder, lobotomies, and insanity ingrained into it, but the team is more fascinated by how creepy the place will look on camera. After being locked in for the night, they soon find that the hospital offers up much more than an eerie locale. As one of the team goes missing, the others are menaced by ever growing ghostly activity which forces them into breaking down the chained door they entered through, but behind they find only more halls. As endless night stretches on, Lance and the crew begin to surrender their bodies and their minds to whatever evil lurks in the hospital walls.
Without a doubt, Grave Encounters sets its sights on two particular paranormal shows, Ghost Adventures and Paranormal State. Lance's show intro for Grave Encounters is nearly a verbatim melding between those two shows' preamble. (For the record, Adventures is silly fun while State is among the worst that the paranormal reality genre has to offer.) Throughout, writer/ directors The Viscous Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) absolutely nail the patterns of speech used in ghost hunting shows as well as correct use of terminology and actions. I completely believed that the characters responded in the way their real life counterparts would in the same situation, with a mixture of fear, intrigue, steady unremitting disbelief, and the absolute need to put everything on tape. The movie goes for almost an hour before a big scare happens, creating tension throughout the first hour with small happenings and good old fashioned personal conflict between the characters. When the effects work finally intrudes, that is where the film stumbles somewhat. With a larger budget, the effects would have felt much cleaner and less forced, but I do have to give it up to them for showing something and not taking the cop out Blair Witch route.
Despite the occasionally hamfisted effects, Grave Encounters is really a movie that hinges on the actors. Most of the weight in this regard is taken on by Sean Rogerson as Lance. Sean does a heck of a job drawing the audience in with his as he succumbs to horror and madness, but by the end of the film, he took it a bit over the top for me. However, his performance can be seen as a perfect example the decent into Lovecraftian insanity, and it is very telling that his only link to normalcy comes through the lens of a camera. I was equally impressed by Mackenzie Gray as the "psychic" Houston. I would be hard pressed to believe that this character was not based on debunked British psychic Derek Acorah. His performance was highly entertaining, and I really liked that his character was a self aware charlatan but when shit went down he stuck to his shtick in hopes that it would save him. Merwin Mondesir, Ashleigh Gryzko, and Juan Riedinger all give effective performances to round out the team, and no one really felt like they didn't carry their weight.
Ghost Watch in it's entirety! Woot!
Here's the trailer for Grave Encounters. Sadly the trailer spoils one of the film's big money shots.