Director(s): The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minahan and Stuart Ortiz)
Writer(s: The Vicious Brothers
Starring: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir and Mackenzie Gray.
Running time: 95 minutes
DVD release date: 23 April 2012
Found footage, the concept of using discovered footage left behind by dead or missing protagonists, has been around in horror since it was used in Cannibal Holocaust in the 80s. After The Blair Witch Project’s cinema release in 1999, there has been a resurgence of this style of film in horror, pushed further along in 2007 by Paranormal Activity and Spain’s [REC], which was remade in the US as Quarantine in 2008; the same year, Cloverfield was released.
In 2011, Canadian filmmakers The Vicious Brothers released Grave Encounters, a low-budget indie film that manages to capture the fear that is possible with this style of movie. Grave Encounters captures the final filming trip by a group of paranormal investigators who co-host a TV programme of the same name. The group lock themselves into the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital overnight to investigate rumours of hauntings. They find more than they bargained for.
It’s obvious from early in the film that the ghost hunters don’t actually believe in ghosts, but are only after a quick buck. They bribe locals to lie on camera, and bring in their own ‘fake’ medium, but soon enough, the real supernatural catches up with them. One by one, they are taken or killed by the spirits that haunt the building, and finally end up wandering the genuinely spooky corridors, unsure of their own sanity.
One of the main features of this film is the location in which it was shot. The building is easily one of the scariest seen in a horror film of this nature. Long, dark and decrepit corridors, large and sinister common rooms, and claustrophobic cells all combine to create an atmosphere of sheer terror. Filmed at the partly-closed Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, the overwhelming scare-factor of the seemingly-abandoned buildings contrives to help viewers suspend their disbelief and fall into the movie’s alleged reality.
In an age where horror movies rely almost totally on special effects and blood-and-guts for scares, indie films seem to be the way ahead for real tension and atmospheric scares, and Grave Encounters is one of the new breed of films that takes viewers back to the days when writers tried to truly terrify you rather than just grossing you out with more and more gore. Whether The Vicious Brothers have succeeded in that attempt is subjective, but Grave Encounters is certainly worth a watch, especially as the sequel, Grave Encounters 2, is just around the corner.
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