Oct 14, 2014

Review: Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters doesn't sound like anything all that original. It's about a group of people who lock themselves inside an abandoned insane asylum overnight, all shot in a found footage style. I was all the same intrigued by the subject because there's definitely some scary stuff you could do. Abandoned insane asylums are scary to pretty much everyone right? This was filmed in a real one that was closed down a year after the film's release. The production does a great job at making the asylum look abandoned for quite some time though.

I don't watch enough Canadian films as I've said before, so Grave Encounters is a chance for me to rectify that. Directed by "The Vicious Brothers," or otherwise known as Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, there's something special about Canadian horror and I'm hoping that GE can add something there. The film apparently has a cult following and there is a sequel, so there is a chance that I might be in for a pretty good ride.


Genre: horror
Directed by: The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz)
Produced by: Shawn Angelski, Mark Knechtel, Colin Minihan, etc.
Written by: The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz)
Music by: Quynne Alana Paxa
Running time: 92 minutes
Production company: Digital Interference Productions, Twin Engine Films
Distributed by: Tribeca Film, Albatros Film, New Video Group, etc.
Country: Canada
Language: English
Budget: $2,000,000
Box office: $5,408,334 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Merwin Mondesir, Mackenzie Gray, Juan Riedinger, Arthur Corber, Bob Rathie, Matthew K. McBride, Ben Wilkinson, Alex Timmer, Eva Gifford


Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) is the host of a horror reality TV show called Grave Encounters. With Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko), Matt White (Juan Riedinger), T.C Gibson (Merwin Mondesir) and Houston Grey (Mackenzie Gray), he goes to haunted locations and tries to find evidence of the paranormal. It began in the early 2000's before ending by only the fifth episode because the crew mysteriously went missing during the filming of episode six. The footage for the sixth episode finally made it to the desk of Grave Encounters producer Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson) in 2010 and has been edited only for time purposes.


I'm definitely a fan of how the film sets itself up. The reality TV angle is goofy and gets that 2000's vibe right. What this crappy, reality TV show point of view does is make you let your guard down. Even the people doing the show know that what they're doing is a load of bologna and it's easy for you to start thinking that way too.

I also like how the film opens with the producer of the Grave Encounters TV show who explains how he got the footage, but without too much detail though. "What you're about to see is not a movie" he says and I liked the sound of that. It's not a brilliant start or anything but it's serviceable.

Where things start to get interesting is when the caretaker of the building gives them a tour of the building, possibly giving some foreshadowing of what's to come. Once the cameras are being set up in prime locations, the tension starts building. The build up is patient enough to make you think that nothing is going to happen, but boy would you be wrong.

The first scare that happens gave me shivers, no joke. The scares aren't all like that though, giving the film a bit of an uneven feel in terms of its horror capabilities. Once the scares start getting more effects-heavy, the scariness dies a bit. Minihan and Ortiz are relatively good at utilizing their setting to good effect but the found footage format probably holds that aspect back a bit. What started to happen for me was that I felt scared for the characters in their situation and not actually scared myself. 

That's not to say that Grave Encounters isn't a scary movie. It really is and despite its unevenness, it delivers enough real scares to be a good horror movie in my books. The ending is also pretty terrifying. The infighting between the characters feels natural and the location turns into a place where you would never want to set foot in, not in a thousand years. Any sort of jump scares are also pretty well built up and the use of sound is also a pretty big strength here.

The only other big complaint I can think of is how the found footage style is handled at times. During segments which are being filmed for the GE TV show, the cameraman is unable to keep the camera steady during interviews. If a scene has a cameraman running down a hallway, I understand that he's going to shake the camera and all that. But his inability to keep the camera straight during a static interview is distracting and unnecessary. 

I guess in a way Grave Encounters is kind of like The Blair Witch Project, but inside an insane asylum. TBWP is much better though at keeping everything hidden which in turn makes the movie much scarier since it's all in your head. That's probably something that is only scary for some people, but it is for me. I'm sure that some people will be driven away by the found footage style of Grave Encounters but I say give it a chance. It may not be terribly original, but it's one of the better found footage movies out there and has its fair share of scary moments.



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