By Pete Benavides
The found footage genre first came on to the public scene in the form of “The Blair Witch” project. It’s a story about three people who enter mysterious woods that are trying to debunk a myth. Only they did not come back alive. All that remained from their investigation was the footage, which left audiences scared and creeped out of their mind. This type of film was new and it was different. Since then, movie series like “Paranormal Activity” and “Rec” have made it more of an international and commercial success. However, some independent low budget films make waves among the indie horror crowd and film festivals but never get the public attention they deserve. “Grave Encounters” is one film that fits this description.
Directed by the Vicious Brothers “Grave Encounters” is about an intense crew of paranormal investigators (think Ghost Adventures) who are seeking out proof of the afterlife. On this particular investigation they’re visiting a large psychiatric hospital that is said to be one of the most haunted sites in America. Our main character does a nice job of building up the history of the facility and sets the stage for what’s to come. What’s a little funny about the lead character, Lance Preston, is that, in some random candid shots, he’s actually very skeptical of what his show is doing which is quite a contrast from his intro where his feelings are very strong about the paranormal. It’s also clear in the early stages of the film that making money is the sole goal of their show. As a result they go about manipulating some of the interviewees to help build the suspense.
As the faux suspense slowly builds we find Lance and his crew setting up cameras throughout the hospital, patient rooms, underground tunnels, bathrooms, etc. As the sun sets the caretaker leaves them and Lance makes the audience aware that they will be spending all night locked inside the hospital. As the crew begins their investigation we’re taken through pitch black hallways where we are only able to view scenes through their hand held cameras or with the help of flashlights brought along, nicely adding to the suspense. After a short break, in which the crew isn’t experiencing much activity, Lance decides to have his crew get a few more shots of the dark empty rooms and call it a night. The hospital, as the investigators find out, doesn’t share the same idea and Lance’s skepticism begins to change.
A small series of events begin to slowly terrorize the crew ranging from one of the crewmembers hair being lifted by something that can not be explained to voices being heard, fresh blood being spotted and probably the biggest twist in the entire movie, an endless night and maze of terror. I’m being subtle with this information, as I would hate to ruin one of the coolest twists I’ve seen in a horror film in a long time. What would ensue for the rest of film are some unpredictable scenes and a lot of suspense that builds up nicely and ends with a very rewarding payoff.
As much as I would have liked for this to be the perfect found footage film not everything was exactly on point. There were some minor flaws, as any film would have, and I had just a small issue with the very ending. To put it simply, I feel it could have been done just a slightly different way.
In the end, I found “Grave Encounters” to be one of the better and entertaining found footage horror films released last year that didn’t get much attention. It’s a film that should entertain the horror fan collective and those who may be skeptical of the paranormal themselves as well.