Latest horror movie follows the lost-footage style of horror presentation
Blame the “Blair Witch Project.” In 1999, it came out in theaters and scared the pants off everyone. Then again, that’s what horror movies are supposed to do: scare the pants off you. However, the “Blair Witch Project” did what only a handful had done in the past; it told you the story was real, and that someone had found their footage and was now turning it into a feature-length film and making a ton of money on it. Now, everyone is jumping on the Found-Footage genre. Some are better than others, some are frightening and some are just plain silly. “Grave Encounters” manages to be both frightening and silly, and doesn’t do too bad a job at it.
The film opens in the typical way of found-footage films: an explanation of how the footage was found. In this case, it’s the former producer of a ghost-hunting type show called “Grave Encounters.” He explains that they went into an asylum in Maryland to film an episode and never made it out, but their footage survived. While this is quickly becoming cliché, and almost tiresome, it is key to the genre.
“Grave Encounters” takes a glimpse into the world of ghost-hunting television shows that viewers have always wondered about, whether or not it’s a glimpse based in fact. A psychic is brought into the building and over-dramatically stands over a bathtub in one of the asylum’s rooms, calling out to spirits and claims he was speaking to a woman who killed herself in said tub. Once he is finished proclaiming, the host of the show yells cut and the psychic begins laughing. “Too much,” he asks, mimicking his own mannerisms, sending the whole crew into laughter. Later, the host even bribes the groundskeeper into saying he saw a ghost in the court yard, all for the sake of hyping up their show.
This is a film that likes to keep all its scares in one basket, and that basket is the last forty-five minutes of the film. Very few scares are seen before then, and the ones that are simply jump out at you; all but yelling “boo!” However, once “Grave Encounters” begins that terrifying descent into madness it doesn’t stop. There is departure from the usual scares of an asylum; playing with time and space and making the audience feel claustrophobic along with the characters. Lucky for “Grave Encounters,” not all the scary moments were revealed in the trailer. In the trailer, one shot of a girl in the corner, eerily reminiscent of the “Blair Witch Project” barely holds a candle to some of the other scares the cast encounters.
Without delving into spoilers, the ending was both expected and unexpected. It was not something that stuck with me after I saw it, though it may just be that I don’t frequently find myself in asylums on a regular basis. I definitely was scared pants-less in the final act of the film, but not to the after-movie nightmare extreme.
Of all the found-footage films coming out this year, as well as the ones of previous years, “Grave Encounters” breathes a bit of freshness into the genre. While it did use a lot of techniques of previous films, it almost needed to in order to keep away from confusion. It was definitely scary, sometimes horrifying, but it was not something that kept me up at night. It is a film that is definitely worth a watch, if not for the laughs in the beginning of the film while watching the bumbling crew attempt to make scares where there aren’t any, and continuing to laugh when they realize they didn’t need to make anything up.