Grave Encounters (2011)

I Never Believed in Ghosts, Until I Came Face to Face With One … Oh wait, that’s the TV show …

Getting back to my review requests in the wake of the Twilight series, today’s review comes as a request from my friend Tiffany.  I had no idea what would cause her to request a horror movie of me until I started watching it.  Flying in the face of what you would expect of us, based on our intelligence levels, we are both big fans of Ghost Adventures, a ghost hunting television show on the Travel Channel.  I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I sure would like to believe in them.  It’d just make the world that much cooler.  Some of the stuff in Ghost Adventures seems really compelling to me, and some of it not that interesting.  Let’s see what happens when you turn a show I like into a movie, when we get locked down with Grave Encounters, written and directed by the Vicious Brothers, co-directed by Colin Minihan, and starring Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir, Mackenzie Gray, Ben Wilkinson, Arthur Corber, and Michele Cummins.

The premise of the entire movie is: What would happen if the Ghost Adventures Crew went on a lockdown and the ghosts were not content with merely making their presence known?  We’re presented the footage by the producer of the show, Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson), who tells us that, no matter how much what we’re watching is totally a movie, it’s not a movie.  This shit’s real.  And if you still believe that about every found footage movie you see, I’m surprised you made it this far into the review.  I’ve used words with at least three syllables.  Well, this is a movie, so we suspend our disbelief a little bit.  The footage we watch shows Zak Bagans … I mean Lance (Sean Rogerson) and his crew – Matt (Juan Riedinger), Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko), and T.C. (Merwin Mondesir) – setting up for their series finale in the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital.  At first, they’re entirely content to falsify the program by paying people to say that they’ve seen ghosts, and they even bring along a fake psychic named Houston (Mackenzie Gray).  They get locked down in the hospital to begin filming, and they are shocked to find some legitimate paranormal occurrences.  They’re small at first, but they escalate to the point where Matt goes missing.  The rest of the crew resolves to break through the door they came in from, but find that the hospital has changed around them, and the entrance just leads to another hallway.  Now trapped in the hospital, the Grave Encounters Crew must struggle to survive.

I was pretty fond of this movie, but not so much that I could ignore it’s flaws.  I’ve made it very clear how I feel about ghosts, but (in case you weren’t reading around October) I like them.  I like the idea of them, I like a certain TV show about them, and I like movies about them.  So this movie already had a head start with me.  It kind of shat upon that in the beginning though.  First off, you can fuck right the Hell off with that whole “We’re gonna act like this really happened” bullshit.  I know I’m watching a movie.  This would’ve made the news if this film was real and someone found legitimate proof of ghosts.  So don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot and let’s watch this movie.  I liked that they so clearly swagger jacked Ghost Adventures, but mainly just because I really like Ghost Adventures and we’re in between seasons right now.  But then they shit on that by making the crew in the movie so desperate to make a TV show about ghosts that they’ll cheat.  I have no proof that Ghost Adventures doesn’t do this as well, but I like to believe they don’t.  I also understand that lots of people don’t believe what happens on Ghost Adventures, so I don’t really have a problem with them parodying them.  The problem I have is that I would assume the only type of person that would really be interested in this movie are probably aware of Ghost Adventures, probably enjoy ghost movies, and probably wouldn’t be too fond of the movie shitting on them.  That’s roughly what started me off poorly with this movie.  You’re borrowing so heavily from something you’re also mocking, so what does that say about you?  You even have your cameraman putting down X’s made of tape on the floor in hotspots like Aaron Goodwin does.  Getting past that, I found much of the rest of the movie pretty entertaining.  The spooky effects were pretty cool for a movie that I assume had a fairly low budget, and even went as far to remind me of the first Paranormal Activity.  Parts of these effects – such as the guy getting choked by a ghost in the hallway – were less than convincing, and maybe even kind of goofy.  They walk drunkenly along the line between tension and just plain taking too long to do something, stumbling back and forth between the two, and they’ll probably get taken to jail for being far too drunk to drive.  Much like that last joke, there are things in this movie that barely made sense to me.  First, someone really should’ve told the main guy that you can’t check someone’s pulse with your fingernails.  And if you already know that this building is going to change around the building to not allow you to leave, what makes you think that going into the tunnels underneath the facility will work?  They can probably change that too.  Also, how good are the batteries on your cameras and flashlights?  Those things lasted like a week!  I won’t spoil the end of the movie (because I didn’t think of a joke for it), but it’s very reminiscent of Blair Witch … in that it’s almost exactly like it, very confusing, and kind of disappointing.

The performances were pretty well done, but a few of the people got a little annoying.  Sean Rogerson was pretty much a scrawny Zak Bagans, but was fairly convincing when it came time for him to be terrified.  He was also the one that decided he wanted to film everything when people were losing their lives, a practice that should probably be frowned upon.  But, also, I’m pretty sure I’d be that guy.  Because then, if the videos were found, I’d be fuckin famous.  I’m gonna die anyway, might as well get famous out of it.  The girl, Ashleigh Gryzko, did an acceptable job, but I found myself waiting for her to get her boobs out and she never did.  I don’t know how they would’ve worked that in to the movie, but I still think they should have tried.  Juan Riedinger and Mackenzie Gray did acceptable jobs, but they hammed it up a little bit at times.  Mackenzie did it on purpose when he was acting like a psychic, and Juan did it when he was supposed to have gone insane.  Merwin Mondesir got on my nerves a little bit.  He was the first one to lose his shit when stuff started happening.  Black guys end up doing this a lot in movies, but this one didn’t have the good sense to kill him off first so that he could stop annoying me.  That is NOT racist!  Instead of killing him off, he dragged on annoying me for the majority of the movie, accusing other people of stuff they couldn’t possibly have been responsible for and just being an all around dick.

I liked this movie, but it was far from perfect.  I liked the premise of the movie, but not how they pissed on (while still stealing ideas from) other stuff that I enjoy.  They achieved a lot of tension in the movie, while occasionally failing and just having scenes drag on too long.  The effects were hit and miss, though they were mostly pretty well done.  And the performances were pretty solid, but at least one person was a major irritant, like ants in your jock strap.  Unless you’re into that kind of thing.  I saw this movie from Netflix streaming, and if the properties that it borrows from were movies you liked, I think you’ll probably enjoy this movie as well.  Otherwise, you can probably skip it and live a long happy life.  Grave Encounters gets “Raw, extreme, these are our Grave Encounters” out of “I couldn’t find any quotes from this movie!”

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