Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grave Encounters and Stumbling Through a Paranormal Realm: A Movie Review and Preview

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Director/writer: The Vicious Brothers.

Cast: Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, and Ashleigh Gryzko.

*this title is scheduled to arrive on VOD / iTunes on Aug 25, 2011 and will be released on DVD, October 18, 2011.

The paranormal reality television genre has finally reached a point in where it can be grimly parodied. In the heights that this medium has reached, it is about time that these ghost hunters are getting a stab of the thorn. Grave Encounters gives a fictional group of ghost adventurers, led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), their just deserts. It is not wise to go adventuring into territory in where they will not be welcomed.

When they investigate Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, the fate that Preston and his team end up in can best be described as taking the Kobayashi Maru test from “Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.” What they encounter tests both their character and resilience in a situation that is not necessarily about success, but in how to survive a lingering fact that will haunt them for life.

This movie mimics films like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity by using the "found footage" shtick. It takes a different spin by having “real” paranormal investigators for once. The fictional TV show’s intro definitely takes a stab at introducing a Ryan Buell (Paranormal State) and Zak Bagans (Ghost Adventures) wannabe by using all the same camera angles and dialogue that defines what the series, Grave Encounters, is all about. And as one watches this film, Lance channels all the charm and hostility of these two show hosts in all their shining glory.

This film can be tough to watch in that regard. Rogerson may be handsome, but he does not have the charisma to carry the film. To claim that Lance was a pioneer in the paranormal reality genre is iffy, and just how much more shaky-cam movies can people tolerate? Why film-makers have to insist in this format does not always make for an engaging film. The motion is used to nauseating effect and this movie is by no means an example of cinema art.

The let’s-be-personal method does help involve viewers, but it does not help make a movie. When the pans and zooms are jerky, the only evidence viewers will find is that of calling the camera people rank amateurs. And there is no riveting plot to be found in Grave Encounters

Another problem are Preston’s teammates, Matt White (Juan Riedinger) and Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko) who present two sides of their personality. They are camera hogs who are somewhat interesting to watch when put in front of the camera but behind it, they are cowards. Another character, Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray), is a bit more interesting; he is a character that is not fully realized. But when the night wears thin, how they treat one another also becomes unveiled. They start attacking one another instead of trying to stay focused as a group.

And when they enter a carnival house of horror, all the clich├ęs and predictability start appearing in rapid procession. Wheelchairs and objects start moving on their own, and the creepy Japanese effects ala The Grudge (Ju-on) start manifesting. As for why the spirits look like clowns or the person in Edvard Munch’s "The Scream," only the movie’s creators, The Vicious Brothers, will know, and they are not telling.

This film modestly captures the sense of a world gone wrong. But it also gets emo too when the team can not find a way to leave. They keep on arguing amongst themselves. Only madness and separation anxiety in classic H.P. Lovecraft fashion ensues. When their willpower finally breaks down, so does this film.

There were so many moments where this movie could have ended. But instead, it gets merciless in dragging out the climax. The Vicious Brothers, who wrote and directed this film, still need lessons in how to tame a product. At best, this film is left for curiosity seekers to explore. They can leave anytime; all they have to do is to turn on the lights.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

Grave Encounters Official Website

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