Overlooked Film of the Week-#25
I can understand why people would dislike the found footage genre. Its a tired device that distracts more than pushes the story forward. Since "The Blair Witch Project," the infamous "Pourghkeepsie Tapes," and especially after "Paranormal Activity," Hollywood has caught the bug. It's the found footage bug. It seems 1 out of every 3 horror movies are now in the found footage format, and its expanding to other genres. Hollywood has to oversell everything, or apparently everything is wrong in the world. Sometimes, the device has the ability to surprise. Sometimes it becomes exactly what the genre sets out to do. "Grave Encounters" is one of those examples.
The film seems like a standard horror film at face value. At the beginning of the film, we watch an interview with a high-ranking, television exec. He gives us pretty much what you'd expect to set this movie up. He monologues endlessly about how everything we are about to see is true and blah, blah, blah. We learn that "Grave Encounters" was the name of a successful television show which tried to figure out if certain "haunted" places across the country are really what they say they are. When they went to a certain mental institution, the team never came back, and they were found dead later.
We then get right into the footage. We meet Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) who has been doing the show "Grave Encounters" since 2003, going across country trying to find paranormal evidence. The "episode" we are about to see is of the fictional Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. Its a hospital that apparently had about 80,000 patients...crazy ones. The set up is handled very well, Preston does everything, ethical or not, to get a good show. We also learn a lot about the group as a whole. The film's scares start small, as intended, but when things get bad, boy do they get bad.
I bring up "Blair Witch Project" because I feel "Grave Encounters" feels very much in sync with that movie. What makes "Grave Encounters" so scary is that you as the audience member really begin to feel for this group. This is definitely the craziest haunted house movie to come out in awhile. Not only are the ghosts creepy, but the cast soon learns there is absolutely no way out. Windows turn into walls, front doors become entire other sections of the hospital, food seems to suddenly rot. It soon becomes clear that the ghosts are not the only scary things, but how the effects get to this team quickly. "Grave Encounters" is a dizzying, deteriorating, and disorienting experience, which is why I feel it works as a horror film.
If there were Oscar Awards for horror films Sean Rogerson would have got one for his portrayal of Lance Preston. Rogerson almost feels like he was a television host at one time, as he transitions from cocky, ambitious television host to failed almost-corpse, the change seems unreal. It's great acting, not acting we are used to seeing in movies like these, exactly the type of acting needed for this genre. The effects for the ghost was also unbelievable, almost too good for the audience to believe this is found footage. But I could not help but be taken by it.
"Grave Encounters" is currently on Netflix instant stream. If you hate found footage movies, I would hope you still give this one a try. Its one of the good ones.