A producer for a reality television show and his crew spend the night in an abandoned asylum in Grave Encounters.
In the mid 2000’s, Lance Preston is a pioneer in the realm of reality tv. He is the first to create and host a ghost chaser show called “Grave Encounters.” For the show’s 6th episode, Lance and his crew decide to spend the night in Maryland’s abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital (although the trailer says “MA”, the standard abbreviation for Massachusetts). They will be locked inside to explore the building until dawn. Behind the scenes, the crew is skeptical and as many reality producers do, they stage a few scenes. Throughout the night, they witness paranormal activity unlike anything they found on previous explorations and soon regret their decision to stay the whole night.
If you hate found footage movies, you will absolutely despise Grave Encounters. If you like found footage horror with a good script and good scares, you will still probably hate Grave Encounters.
A lot of people enjoyed this film. Plenty of critics gave it rave reviews. There are articles reporting people thought the events in the story were real. A lot of people might like this one but that does not make it a good movie.
The first 17 minutes are interviews and location shots of the crew setting up, apparently using a hand held camera. The camera is shaking for no reason and the photographer zooms in and out as though it is a religious experience. It might make sense if anything were actually happening but no one is being chased or under any stress whatsoever. This literally goes on and on. It is nauseating to watch. The only stress is on the viewer’s eyes. You may find yourself hoping the crew member behind the camera will be the first to go.
They set up stationary cameras in various parts of the building. It temporarily eliminates the shaky screen and zoom problem but then night falls. For the next 60 plus minutes, everything is shot through the the green tint of night vision.
Cinematography is only part of the problem with Grave Encounters. Why is there a caretaker and groundskeeper on-site of a place abandoned years ago? Why is there graffiti on the doors and why are random teenagers fooling around in the place when the aforementioned caretaker and groundskeeper are on-site?
The actors do their best with an awful script. The writers turned to one of the most annoying writing habits in horror: F-bombs. There must be a school of thought out there saying a character must repeat the word “fuck” as many times as possible when under duress and be sure to direct it at his friends. Profanity, including the word “fuck” can be absolutely necessary and integral to a story in any genre but it should not be used as a catch-all when the writer cannot think of solid material for a character.
Another annoying habit gets a subtle mention, too; telling someone “this isn’t some stupid movie.” Any screenwriter who thinks that line is either clever or funny needs to stop writing, immediately.
It is a real shame this movie is so bad. It has a few good points. The story of of an arrogant, douchey producer and his team stumbling on to a real haunted asylum is interesting. There is some gore but it is nothing over the top. It relies heavily on jump scares but some scenes are genuinely creepy.
The idea is there but the rest is missing. It is just sloppy. Many times, the characters try to communicate with the ghosts by asking for a sign. There are plenty of signs in this movie telling us to watch something else and avoid probably avoid the sequels.
TRT: 92 minutes
Final Cut Score-33 (66%)
Side note: If you want to watch a good Asylum story, try Session 9 (2001).–Rick