Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Grave Encounters (2011) Review:

When The Blair Witch Project (1999) was released, it opened the gates to a new type of horror genre. This new genre would be called "Found Footage" where the film would play out like it was made on or actually filmed with a hand held camcorder. At the time, it was a new look at how horror films could be captured and presented to viewers. The idea behind this method of filmmaking was to have audiences believe that the events taking place actually happened with no tampering or editing. Then came Paranormal Activity (2007), which many people find rejuvenated the genre. Four years after that with a couple sequels following, the genre again experienced a boom. This film is one these productions that wanted to ride the coat tail. Thankfully, it is nominally entertaining. It's not gold, but it is somewhat captivating.

Lance Preston & his professional team,....
For most found footage films, the horror revolves around people experiencing ghost like events. Paranormal Activity (2007) and several other knock offs took place in a familiar setting, such as a house. What's different here however is that the setting takes place in a mental asylum, long since closed down. Audiences are introduced to Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) a "professional" ghost hunter who has his own reality series of following ghostly activity. The only interesting actor that was cast was Mackenzie Gray, Jax-Ur from Man of Steel (2013). With them are a couple other characters that barely have any kind of charm. The dialog that these characters are given are quite limited. Mostly from dropping four letter words or complaining relentlessly.

The writing (which includes the dialog) is inconsistent with its intelligence. The dialog is one of them, the pacing is another and the common sense among cast members seems evidently full of hot air. There are moments where people have trouble communicating yet don't think twice about using anything around them to help communicate (at least maybe not till later). Seriously, how clueless are you? And it’s because of these silly actions that slow down the pacing. That and the countless bickering that goes on between the group members. The run time is only an hour and a half, yet the execution feels longer than that. Also there's continuity issues involving what's real and what isn't. However the thing that is notable, writing related, is how the film exposes possible truths about reality shows. It's surprising sometimes to what gets done behind the production.

that is,....at least when they're rolling
Again, the setting is something new as well. The production design by Paul McCulloch is great. The inside of the asylum looks dingy and worn. It reminisces that of a mix between underwater relics in the Titanic and the visual appeal of the video game Outlast (2014). It is a bit eerie being inside. Once the group is inside they are exposed to number of twists that I didn't see coming. But this also goes back to continuity and how reality isn't what it seems to be. And shouldn't there have been an epilogue because it started with a prologue? The horror elements are mostly jump scares and some violence but it’s not terrible or too cliché (although some is). That and the mix of decent special effects compared to its budget. It could've been worse. The only credit I am questioning is Quynne Alana Paxa as composer. There was no music that I heard of and rightfully so considering the genre. So again why the credit?

Its setting is what helps it be as effective as it can be, with interesting twists and a creepy production design. Don't hope on having any characters that stand out too much though, they're about as generic as they come.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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