Grave Encounters is a lot of fun and more importantly doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
If nothing more, Grave Encounters is a fun romp through a couple of different sub genres. On one half you have the ‘found footage’ genre which is all the rage in horror these days (thanks Paranormal Activity) and the other half you have a group of people in way over their heads getting themselves stuck in an old run down mental hospital. Original this movie is not. But who cares, this movie is a lot of fun and more importantly doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
The film is about a ‘reality’ type TV show you’d find on the Sy-Fy channel (why did they change the spelling by the way) about a group of people exploring old houses, hospitals and other buildings, looking for proof of ghosts. The film has some nice intro scenes with this group as they walk the grounds to see where they can get the best shots, interviews with people who work there. There is one funny scene where they ask a gardener if he had seen any weird occurrences and he says, “No.” They cut filming and pay him $50 bucks to say he’s seen something. Roll camera again and sure enough he says he has seen a couple of things.
Back inside, the group gets everything set up for their night. Cameras positioned, lighting where they need it, etc. They give a chain for the owner to put around the doors of the main entrance. He is to come back at 6am sharp to let them out. But at no time sooner is he to return. And with that, their filming begins.
The group decides to split up to get more filming done in less time. What’s great about the film is that it doesn’t rush the scares. There are plenty of scenes where we get POV shots of people walking the dark hallways of this former madhouse. There are no lights that work in the building, so either light comes from the cameras, flash lights or else we are treated to green lit infra-red shots. These shots make up essentially the entirety of the film.
Like I said, there are PLENTY of shots where it’s someone walking the hallways alone as they search for odd activity. I don’t remember a score so a lot of these scenes are treated with an eerie quietness that only permeates the fear in the viewer. Now it may be that I have a very active imagination, but I personally loved all of this.
About a half hour into Grave Encounters the crew starts to see some funky stuff go down. A wheelchair randomly moves by itself. A door slams itself behind someone as they enter a room. Someone actually thinks the wind could’ve done it, but when 3 people try to shut it themselves, they struggle with it and with no wind blowing through the hall, one gets pretty anxious at what the answer must be.
Time seems to move slowly in this hospital. At one point, it’s about 6am. A couple of hours later the sun is still down and other’s watches have stopped. This is where Grave Encounters takes a turn into something else. The hospital seems to exist in another dimension when people are in it. The film crew agonizingly discovers this when exit doors lead to other hallways instead of outdoors and when a climbing staircase leads to a brick wall instead of a door to the roof. Plus their newly wrapped food in the cooler suddenly turns moldy and maggot filled. My over-active imagination and I freaked out at the idea of being put in this situation. One person has the idea to break the windows with something heavy like a hammer or a crow bar. Whoops, they forgot them in the van outside. What the hell where they thinking?
Just over halfway through, the film introduces CGI and it almost ruins everything the filmmakers had been working towards. Some of the set pieces they pull off because of CGI are well done, but could easily have gone the other way if they had been handled differently. Thankfully it’s not over done and is used in some great moments, ones that I will not reveal here. But to say this group goes through some sadistic shit is not overstating anything.
SPOILERS: All of this leads up to the final third of the film which dwindles our group down to only 2 or 3 people and then eventually down to one poor soul. What he ultimately discovers about the hospital is pretty dumb if only because it’s been done before plenty of other times in plenty of other films. But Grave Encounters has plenty of fun getting there and that’s enough for me to recommend it.