The “found footage” approach to horror filmmaking, for better or for worse, has created a new subcategory in the horror genre. We’ve seen witches, ghosts, exorcisms and more. So why does Grave Encounters work then? I asked myself that question multiple times during The Vicious Brother’s found footage foray. I feel as though opinions on this are going to be largely divided, so I would like to preface this review with a little bit of information that might help support my thoughts. I hosted a live paranormal radio show for three years. In that industry it’s not unusual to see huge conflicts between the truth and entertainment. The paranormal reality show has proven to be an enormous money maker and has often been more detrimental to proving the existence of it’s concepts than many fans would like to think. TV is TV. It is entertainment and often it is experience that shapes our faith…not an 8 o clock slot on the Travel Channel. HOWEVER, it is this entertainment that often prompts us to question out beliefs and expand our horizons. The message here? Don’t shoot the messenger…even when it’s a pompous melodramatic douchebag that preys on people’s faith with cheap parlor tricks. ok…so maybe it’s ok to shoot the messenger, but it doesn’t excuse any of us from drawing our own conclusions about the things that go bump in the night. Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) is just the kind of douchebag that causes the true believer to roll their eyes. Shooting their sixth episode for their series Grave Encounters, Lance and his team of paranormal adventurers take on an abandoned insane asylum with a history of haunted happenings. It’s easy to see early on just where this is going. The set up practically demands it and we are treated to some nice bits of humor early on as we see what some of us already know: entertainment does not wait on the unexplained to happen…sometimes it has to be “encouraged”. This also allows us to explore the motives of our lead characters as we learn that they too understand the importance of providing their viewers with entertainment, no matter the cost… Even when the cost is slipping some petty cash to the Gardner to improvise when approached to relate some of his own experiences. Like any morale parable on the dangers of getting what you wish for, the Grave Encounters crew soon find out that their location has it’s own idea of entertainment. In this sense The Vicious Brothers (somehow I feel extremely ridiculous for capitalizing this every time, but I also refer to myself in the third person, so… Yeah…. We all have our little delusions of grandeur) are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’ve seen a lot of these scare trappings before… It is, however, the willingness of the directors to take the scares to the next level that kept my interest. Sure we get a lot of movement in the camera’s periphery and a lot of noises off camera, but this is a staple of a lot of contemporary paranormal programming, so it seems to fit here a little more naturally. It is also an opportunity to set us up for what soon becomes a barrage of money shots… A series of visual reveals that successfully give us what a lot of it’s peers only hint at in this sub genre. Make no mistake, we definitely get payoffs in Grave Encounters, and it sets itself far apart from so many of the other found footage flicks that it finds it’s own voice and keeps you watching, regardless of now many tired conventions the film uses to set up the scares. Grave Encounters has enough “jumps” to satisfy the casual movie watcher and a few “oh shit” moments” to keep the rest of us interested. Recommended.
Ash Hamilton is not only the owner of Horror-Fix.com, but also one of its major contributors. A long time horror movie enthusiast, Ash has lent his personality to radio and television and continues to support his favorite genre through his writing and art. He also loves beef jerky and puppies... and low-grade street-quality hallucinogens.
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