grave encounters | the vicious brothers | colin minihan | stuart ortiz | ben wilkinson | sean rogerson | ashleigh gryzko | found footage | found-footage | ghost | ghosts | adventure | fantasy | mystery | canada | merwin mondesir | juan riedinger | haunted | haunted house
Film: Grave Encounters
Director: The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz)
Writer: The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz)
Starring: Ben Wilkinson, Sean Rogerson and Ashleigh Gryzko
This was a movie that I actually remember seeing on the shelves when I worked at Family Video. I’ll admit, I was one of those people that when I saw it there, I figured it would be something that was cheesy and never watched it. When I got into listening to podcasts, I kept hearing people talk highly of it. I even had people I know in real life actually recommend this movie. Finally saw this with Jaime when on a mutual day off, I just wanted to watch at least a movie that night and we decided on this one, even though movies like this terrify her. The synopsis is for their ghost hunting reality show, a production crew locks themselves inside an abandoned mental hospital that’s supposedly haunted – and it might prove to be all too true.
We start this off with Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson). He relays to us about a reality, ghost hunting show called Grave Encounters. The footage was sent to Jerry and he’s informing us that this isn’t a movie and that everything we see really happened. I believe he also says this was sent to him and not necessarily sure from where.
The footage is led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and this is episode six of his show. He’s out to get this sold, so in the process he’s trying to compile as much footage as he can. His crew with him is Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko) and T.C. Gibson (Merwin Mondesir) who are camera operators. The producer is Matt White (Juan Riedinger).
This group is at Collingwood Asylum and they’re going to be locked in for 8 hours. Before they do, Morgan Turner (Shawn Macdonald) is a local historian who tells them different things about the place. This includes the story of Dr. Arthur Friedkin (Arthur Corber). There is ‘archive footage’ that is placed in here as well.
They’re then taking around by Kenny Sandavol (Bob Rathie) who is the caretaker. He tells them more about certain rooms in the place. The group also interviews Gary Crawford (Fred Keating), a contractor who had some experiences there, along with some others from the area.
A psychic medium of Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray) shows up to join them and help to ‘contact’ the spirits. What I like here is that we see Lance has never seen a ghost. He pays a groundskeeper to lie for the footage and Houston is an actor. Kenny locks them in and they go about trying to get some footage that is worth using. They get much more than they’ve bargained for in their night. When Kenny doesn’t show up to let them out, they figure out they’re trapped and no matter what they do, they cannot escape. It becomes much more terrifying as the night goes on as they encounter some scary things.
Now that’s where I want to leave my recap as I don’t really want to spoil things here. Part of that is that, despite this being almost a decade old at the time of writing this, I was able to avoid spoilers so I would like to pay that forward as well. What I will say, this is a solid found footage film that made me feel uncomfortable.
What really works with this movie for me is I like the realism they’re playing with in the ghost hunter shows. I never really got into them, I’ve seen some here and there, but this movie is showing you the ‘behind the scenes’. We clearly see that they really don’t believe anything will happen, but if it could, it would make this show a success. It is interesting though to see Lance paying Javier (Luis Javier), the groundskeeper, or the fact that Houston isn’t really a psychic like he says.
Sticking with the realism, even before things really get crazy, I like to see the breaking down of humanity through fear. T.C. experiences something and gets it on footage, but it really isn’t anything that isn’t explainable or not that crazy. Things just slowly escalate from there and it made me feel uneasy. The found footage adds to that as we feel like we’re there with them. I also don’t mind that they’re constantly filming. It is stated that inside of this place, it is very dark even during the day so they need the light that is mounted on the camera.
There was an aspect of this movie that I predicted as well. It plays with time, which I love. Kenny is supposed to be there at 6 a.m. and when he doesn’t show up, they try to break the door down. I said to Jaime that I think we’re going to find out that time might not move as it does normally and Houston tosses out this theory as well. It is almost like going into a different dimension and I was on board for that.
Since I’ve already moved into this a bit, I’ll shift over to the effects for this movie. Looking at the case, I thought the images they were showing as ghosts looked cheesy and that’s why I never rented this. Having actually seen the movie though, I don’t have problems with them at all. If anything, they got under my skin and I was spooked. This movie does do a lot with the footage being distorted when something supernatural is near by. I don’t mind it in this movie. It wasn’t as prevalent as we see now in this sub-genre. Personally, I do think that is ghosts are near by they would distort electronics. Aside from that, they are probably CGI and I don’t care. That didn’t bother me in the least bit to be honest.
That will take me to the acting which I thought felt natural. Rogerson seems like a guy who is determined to make good television. When something scary happens, he’s excited and I like that as things go south, he is just as terrified. Gryzko does great with looking terrified. If I have a problem with her, it was that she just kept yelling and it got annoying. I thought that Mondesir, Riedinger and Gray were all solid with the rest of the cast rounded this out. No one stands out, which I’m glad for a found footage movie.
If I did have any problems here, it would be with the pacing. My positives for it are that they introduced so many things that would correlate back later and I loved that. From the door stating that ‘Death Awaits’ to certain rooms we are introduced to, something happens later. The issue though is that we get introduced to this Dr. Friedkin and it doesn’t really play too much into it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it made it seem like this was going to be more important than what it was. I also think that it drags near the end which is a shame. Not enough to ruin the product, but I found myself losing interest and it wasn’t for overly long.
Now with that said, I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing this movie, because the feelings it gave to me. It has a set up similar to something like The Last Broadcast and I like it kind of mocking those ghost hunter shows. The acting is believable to bring their characters to life and the effects for the most part were really solid. I’m glad they decided to go without a soundtrack to accompany it. That makes it more unnerving and they use sounds well to make it even more uncomfortable. They do well at bringing things they introduce early back up, but there was one subplot I wanted a bit more from. I also felt it drug a bit later in the movie and didn’t necessarily know how to end. None of this ruined it though. I found this to be a good movie after this initial viewing and would recommend it to those that like the found footage sub-genre. This is also a solid ghost film as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10