I’ll admit it, I totally enjoy watching those cornball Ghost Hunters shows. There’s just something about them that keeps reeling me in. The problem with them is of course that the hosts never find anything solid in their investigations. Sure, a few EMF spikes and creepy self-closing doors manifest on each episode, but I have yet to see anything that makes me question the possible existence of disembodied and communication abled spirits. I would never wish it on my favorite investigation show stars (I’m looking at you, Dave Tango, Steve Gonsalves, and Josh Gates), but just once I want to see someone on these shows get a little roughed up, and I’m willing to bet that most regular viewers of Ghost Hunters feel the same way. Grave Encounters is pretty much the fulfillment of this wish. A crew of paranormal investigators, lock themselves into an asylum for a night of rigged filming, and controlled creepy situations, and to the viewer’s delight they get more than they’d prepared for.
The first thing that has to happen here, is that the viewer has to make peace with the handheld camera look. Unlike a number of horror aficionados, this isn’t a medium that bothers me, with the exception of its potential for motion sickness, which I am prone to. (Funny, because nothing else seems to make me feel nauseated. Desensitized much?) Rest assured this film does its part to balance out the jiggle-cam with stabilized security camera footage. Grave Encounters’ found footage crime charges are pretty mild. With that said, the first half hour or so of this movie is pretty decent. The first hints of paranormal shenanigans are likely to make you talk to and laugh at the people on your television. It’s possible that what makes this movie ever so rewarding is that the crew members of this particular fictional team, totally suck. The host is an utter cornball, and the actor who plays him is either a really terrible actor, or a genius at coming off as a know it all, frat boy in disguise. The back up team is not much better. For the hating pleasure of us ladies is the whiney cleavage delivery system, and the team is even ethnically diverse with a extra-complainey token black dude. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these people get their hair pulled, and be pushed down small flights of stairs. My favorite haunting moments include the scene in which the team thinks they’ve discovered a stair well to freedom, only to be met with a solid concrete wall at the end of their “hoorah!” filled journey, and seeing Token literally disappear into a bathtub full of blood. And I mean disappear for good.
Now for the not so good part: the more that’s revealed to the viewer, the worse this flick gets. I’m not sure how to make it happen, but I’d really like for the independent film industry to understand that this is not scary:
Nobody is really scared of Stretch Armstrong faces or dudes who look like the vocalist from Disturbed in corpse paint and a hospital gown. (yes, those are direct descriptions of the ghosties in this particular movie). Not only did some of the digital effects look stupid, especially the scene where poorly scaled black hands start reaching out of the walls and ceiling, but any real gore is also given the cut away treatment. Butter-fingered camera operators always seem to drop the camera when they’re startled, resulting in the viewer only getting to see the spray of blood on a wall, or a shadow as it crosses the room, instead of being treated to a worth while payoff. On top of all this, the movie just goes on a little too long. There were about three scenes in which I thought the movie was over, only to have the camera crackle back to life and reveal the surviving team member as he still searched about the asylum for an exit.
At its core, Grave Encounters is not a bad movie. Certainly it outshines it’s DVD cover. Unfortunately, the bad kind of outweighs the good in the long run. Do not trust its Netflix review of 4 stars.