Grave Encounters is the debut film of Canadian film makers Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, otherwise known as The Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters 2 ’12, Extraterrestrial ’14) and was produced by Shawn Angelski and Darclight Films. Released in 2011, it stars Sean Rogerson as Lance Preston, Ashleigh Gryzko as Sasha Parker, Mackenzie Gray as Houston Grey, Juan Riedinger as Matt White, Merwin Mondesir as T.C. Gibson, Ben Wilkinson as Jerry Hartfield, Bob Rathie as Kenny and a brief, facially distorted appearance by Arthur Corber as Dr Arthur Friedkin.
The film begins with Jerry Hartfield (Wilkinson) who is the producer for a paranormal investigation program called Grave Encounters. He briefly explains the premise of the show and introduces Lance Preston (Rogerson) as the leader and presenter of the show. Preston states that he began the T.V. show, Grave Encounters, because as a child he had lived in a haunted house and that he now travels the world in search of evidence of paranormal activity. Hartfield then goes on to explain that the show was cancelled after the 5th episode after the footage for the 6th had mysteriously vanished. The footage was eventually recovered and returned to Hartfield, who then states what you are about to see has not been edited and has just been shortened due to time constraints.
Lance Preston and the Grave Encounters crew arrive at the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where they plan to film their 6th episode. They document the outside of the building and speak to a historian who tells them of the history of the hospital, including the demise of Dr. Friedkin (Corber) who performed all kinds of unsavoury surgeries and who was eventually killed when inmates escaped. The historian then states that in the years since it’s closure there have been many reports of unexplained phenomena. From here they meet Kenny (Rathie) the caretaker, who gives them a daylight tour and tells of his own paranormal experiences within the hospital. You then meet Houston Grey (Gray) the show’s flamboyant psychic who, to create a level of ambience for the show, gives a “psychic” re-telling of some of the horror’s that have happened within the hospital. In the name of good television and with Kenny’s help, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They investigate the cells and tunnels and other pre-determined paranormal hotspots and soon have some good footage for their show. However, things soon start to go awry as Sasha (Gryzko) the female member of the group has a disturbing close encounter. Shortly after, their cameraman Matt (Riedinger) goes missing and their stress level begins to rise. Things get gradually worse and tension builds as they can’t get out until Kenny returns in the morning to unlock the doors. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted, it is alive, and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients.
In recent years the horror genre has been inundated with many, many found footage films. Some of them have been exceptional and have received high praise, such as the REC franchise (’07, ’09, ’12, ’14) Evidence (’13) and the V/H/S franchise (’12, ’13, ’14) whilst others have been totally derivative and lacking, which for me at least includes the Paranormal Activity franchise ( ’07, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’16 (yes, Paranormal Activity 5 2016, I expect more predictable tripe)). Grave Encounters however falls more towards that of REC in decency. It may itself not be totally original but it still manages to be an enjoyable film. It is a little slow to start, but the build-up lulls you into a false sense of security. I watched it with some non-horror fan friends of mine, one of the guys jumped, a number of the girls screamed and one poor girl (who is amazingly still my friend) was reduced to tears a couple of times after the film by me doing impressions of the ghost-girl. (Sorry Leanne). It is fairly impressive for a 1st film and I tip my hat to the Vicious Brothers, Minihan & Ortiz, and as such am looking forward to their new film Extraterrestrial (’14). The location they chose was excellent and certainly helped contribute to the overall creepy factor. The performances by the cast are pretty good and you can believe that they’re becoming increasingly traumatized. All in all it is a thoroughly enjoyable film and I would recommend it to any fan of found footage films or horror in general. It has created a cult following despite varying reviews. Rotten Tomatoes only rated it as 5/10 but the New York Press called it the scariest film since The Ring. I guess it’s just one you’ll have to watch and decide for yourself.
– The Eyez 187