As a self proclaimed film critic, I feel that it’s my obligation to force my favorite genres on the masses whenever I get the opportunity. With James DeMonaco’s The Purge hitting theaters this weekend, I thought I’d share with you a horror film that isn’t awful, in order to compensate for The Purge inevitably sucking like a vacuum-powered prostitute. With that in mind, I’d like to draw your attention to a film almost no one has watched, despite it’s being one of the better horror properties of 2011. Grave Encounters is a mockumentary style film directed by Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, who are together known as ‘The Vicious Brothers’. The story follows a team of paranormal investigators as they shoot an episode for their reality TV show. Naturally, the mental hospital that the team is investigating turns out to be legitimately haunted and mayhem ensues.
Granted, the premise sounds like the quintessential cliched horror flick, and that’s because it is, but where Grave Encounters really shines is in it’s writing and it’s almost Blair Which-like suspense and tension. The film features a mostly ensemble cast starring people that you’ve never heard of, but performances are serviceable in as much as the actors know exactly what this film is supposed to be- a fun, scary, over the top stab at the horror genre. The dialogue is engaging and the banter between characters provides some welcome comic relief amid the teeth-gritting terror.
While the writing is very well done and the scares are fun and effective, what really stuck with me about this movie was the ending. I suppose it wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to reveal that the vast majority of the cast ends up dead by the end, but the film ends with the host of the ‘Grave Encounters’ TV program, played by Sean Rogerson, trapped in a pitch-black tunnel with a crawling blackness closing in around him on all sides. By this time, he’s gone through so much that he’s started to become increasingly unhinged. In the final scene, his madness really comes through and the audience is left to question whether or not the protagonist has become delusional under the influence of the very mental institution that he’s been trying to investigate.
Surprisingly, the film has gotten fairly poor ratings across the board, presumably because horror films, by definition, cater to a niche audience. It’s my advice, however, to ignore the ratings, as people in general are not to be trusted. If you decide to give Grave Encounters a watch, be aware that there’s also a sequel, Grave Encounters 2, which takes a much more tongue-in-cheek take on the property, in much the same spirit as Evil Dead 2.
Rating: 4 out of 5