When I was younger my friends and I would take the long trek to Cefn Mably Sanatorium We would take a long time to get there, pass the gate that had various satanic symbols carved into it before eventually coming upon the titular house. That’s usually about where we would stop. The house was too big, too forboding, too attached to the idea that terrible things happen there. Of course now as an adult I’d love to explore it, safe in the knowledge that there’s nothing out there to get me.
But that childish part of me still remains and it’s what makes me a sucker for any haunted house story.
Grave Encounters is the name of a fictional TV Show in the mold of Most Haunted or Ghost Hunters. You know the drill. A team of ‘experts’ visit a supposedly haunted place hoping to catch evidence of a real ghost. This would arguably be the worst horror movie of all time if they didn’t, so they do.
The film, directed by the preposterously named ‘The Vicious Brothers’, is actually effective for most of its running time in a low-key way. Relying on low rent scares and the occasional laugh. Windows open on their own, a chair moves, a light falls over and so on. Things escalate toward the end but I wouldn’t say it actually gets ‘better’ as we get subjected to zombie-like creatures and attack from the occasional bad use of CGI. The biggest flaw is that so much of the film feels like it’s taken from better sources. There’s a bit of Silent Hill in there, the spooky wheelchair is right out of The Changling and the setting is a less effective Session 9 (Still the gold standard for ‘abandoned building’ movies – I’m just making up genres here). I feel bad for saying it, because like the earlier Evidence the film clearly does a lot for what I’m assuming is its meagre budget. It’s unfortunate that the film eventually starts to resemble those chain emails that people used to send out all the time – the ones where you stare at a picture an-OHMYGODWHATSTHATFACE!
You know, those.
There’s enough here to recommend a watch though, and if you aren’t familiar with the films that it apes then I’m sure you’ll find a lot to enjoy. Current tag-team champions The Vicious Brothers clearly have a good eye for what works though and enough of that comes through here, even if they do rely too much on ‘these weird glitches in the video hide our edits’ trick. True, it feels like they struggled to find an ending, one which probably raises more questions that it intended (The opening reveals why we’re watching this film, the ending makes you ask why we’re watching this film) but hey, at least it wasn’t setting up a sequel!