Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Grave Encounters Finds New Life in Found Footage

Ever since the success of The Blair Witch Project, found footage style films have become a major staple of the horror genre. The fact that they are cheaper to produce makes them an enticing option for both fledging directors and studios alike. Despite the cost effectiveness, the majority of the films to use this style rarely reach the heights that The Blair Witch Project did. This is why it is especially exciting when you come across a film that finds innovated ways to bring new life into the format. Grave Encounters is one of those films.

Directed by the Vicious Brothers (Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz), the film centers around a fictional paranormal based reality television show entitled Grave Encounters. Unfortunately, the show never made it past six episodes. The film offers a glimpse into what happened while filming that sixth episode. The show consisted of ghost hunter Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), occult specialist Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko), technical expert Matt White (Juan Riedinger), cameraman T.C. Gibson (Merwin Mondesir) and special guest star, and psychic medium, Houston Grey (Mackenzie Gray).

In episode six the crew was investigating the rumoured paranormal activity that was said to occur at the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. After receiving a tour of the facility, and getting a little history on the types of experiments they performed there, the team voluntarily locks themselves inside the building for a few hours to record footage for the show. At first the majority of their filming produces very little results. However, with time running out before their ride comes to pick them up, the crew starts to experience strange and terrifying phenomena. As the camera’s roll, and people begin to disappear, the show takes on a whole new and horrifying level of reality.

What makes Grave Encounters succeed where other found footage horrors have failed, is that it justifies the need for the characters to be constantly filming everything that is occurring. By using the reality television format, there is never a moment where it feels artificial that the characters constantly document the events. At one point the cameras are used as the main source of light for the team. The fact that the majority of the characters do not even believe in the paranormal only helps to enhance the genuine sense of fear.

It was a smart move by the Vicious Brothers to make their main characters skeptics. This provides the first half of the film with much needed levity. As characters like Preston and Grey try to put on the facade of being paranormal experts, the film never hides the fact that they are frauds just giving a performance for the camera. The desire to put on a good show blinds them to the fact that they increasingly put themselves in dangerous situations. This allows the Vicious Brothers to use the first half of the film to focus primarily on the characters so that you actually care about what happens to them when things go south.

Fortunately, when the terror begins to ramp up the Vicious Brothers incorporate some visual flare to keep the scares coming. Using digital tricks to distort faces, and create arms protruding from the ceilings, there are plenty of genuine chills to go around. However, the film does not neglect to include some simple scares such as a window opening unexpectedly or a wheelchair moving slightly. Whether it is a classic scare like a spirit moving Sasha’s hair, or something more elaborate like a force picking up a character and throwing him down the hallway, Grave Encounters offers plenty of thrills to satisfy even the casual horror fan.


  1. I really liked this film and I found it as engaging as you obviously did.

    I work in a video store and when people ask me for a 'scary film', I point them in the direction of Grave Encounters.

    I also like how it operates as a parody of those terrible paranormal shows like Paranormal State or Most Haunted (UK show). I would recommend it to people who think found footage films are dead.

    1. I found the parody in the film to be spot on. I was surprised how well they nailed the paranormal show genre.


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