Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters is a 2011 Canadian-American supernatural horror film shot in the found footage style where it is recorded by a video camera in a first person point of view as made famous by The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Written and directed by The Vicious Brothers, the film premiered on April 22, 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival to favorable reviews. The film was released on August 25, 2011 in select theaters using the Eventful Demand It and Video On Demand via Comcast. The film premiered internationally in Italy via distributor Eagle Pictures retitled ESP Fenomeni Paranormali on June 1, 2011.

The Plot

The crew of "Grave Encounters", a ghost hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where the show's host, Lance, takes the crew for investigation of the unexplained phenomena that has been reported for years. Accompanied with him are Sasha, a supernatural expert, Camera Man "T.C.", a technical expert named Matt, and an old psychic named Houston.

The caretaker gives them a tour of the building. He shows them a window on the top floor that opens on its own, a trashed bathroom where a young female patient committed suicide in a bathtub by slitting her wrists, a hall said by two hippies to be haunted by a bald man, a former patient's room with the words "DEMONS ON THE WALL" written all over, and the underground tunnel that experiences frequent cold spots. A historian then reports that there were over 80,000 patients, and a doctor was known for performing unethical experiments and lobotomies on the patients. The doctor was later killed by escaped patients.

At first, the crew are not scared of the building, and even make fun of it and bribe a new gardener to claim apparitions in the garden and laugh at the "cheesy" warning on the hospital's main door. The crew voluntarily lock themselves inside for the night and begin a paranormal investigation. They set their camp up by the main door, which is locked from the outside by the caretaker. Hours into the investigation, no signs of paranormal activity have been seen. While filming around, T.C. notices the first paranormal activity when a door slams behind him by itself. Lance and his team try to make contact with the entities and hear a bloodcurdling scream followed by a big bang, the sound of a medical table being turned over. In the point-of-view of the camera filming the top floor window, the window opens on its own. While trying to make contact, Sasha's hair is shown to stand on its own. After the group divides after running, Lance takes photos that show spiritual beings.

With half an hour left before the caretaker comes, they start packing. Matt goes to retrieve his cameras and hears a sound coming from the door of the top floor. He goes to see it and disappears. T.C., Sasha, and Lance try to find Matt, but find his camera equipment scattered on the upper floor instead. In frustration, since hours have passed and the caretaker hasn't shown up yet, T.C. decides to force the front door open with a medical table. As they finally open it, they are shocked to see that the main door leads to another hallway of rooms. They try to pass through the newly-appeared hallway and find an exit, but it only leads to more hallways. Disheartened, they wait in the main lobby for the caretaker. Lance's cellphone now shows the time 1PM, and the windows show no sign of daylight outside.

In desperation, T.C. suggests they use the fire exit on the top floor but the final floor has been barricaded by a wall. They hear Matt's screams but are unable to find him. They're later shocked to find the word "Hello" scratched all over Sasha's back, which is a response to her attempt to communicate with them earlier. The group continues walking and a girl ahead runs across the hallway. Thinking it is Matt, they follow her to a room, where she scares them away with her demonic distorted face. They hide in a room but Houston gets left behind.

Houston searches for the group, but is strangled and killed by an unseen force. Lance, Sasha and T.C. take a nap and awake to find hospital tags on their wrists, bearing their names. They desperately search for a way out of the hospital. T.C. discovers Matt, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. They try to get Matt to explain what happened to him, but quickly find that Matt has been driven insane, only mumbling nonsense about his apparent psychological disorder and unseen people in the hospital. When asked if there is a way out, Matt replies that the way out is to "get better" and that "he will help you too." Meanwhile, Sasha grows increasingly ill, needing medical help.

The camera fades in and out, showing many black hands passing through the walls (which explains the "demons on the wall"), forcing the crew to run out. They hide in the haunted bathroom and move the camera to the bathtub, seeing that it is filled with blood. They attempt to leave the bathroom but T.C. is pulled into the tub by a blood-soaked figure when he tries to pull Matt away from it and vanishes. They run to a nearby elevator, and Lance tries to pry it open. He heads to a room to retrieve a metal rod, but encounters a bald male demon. The demon chases Lance back towards the others. Lance manages to use the rod to pry open the elevator but is attacked again by the bald demon. They attempt to escape out by shutting the hallway's double doors. Matt then commits suicide by falling down the empty elevator shaft not before mumbling into the free camera. Sasha and Lance manage to climb down the elevator, and pry open the door to the underground tunnels.

Sasha and Lance walk through the tunnels, but Sasha collapses and vomits blood. They stop from exhaustion and nap. While napping, a camera Matt stationed at the underground tunnel shows a mist that appears and makes Sasha vanish. Lance awakes shortly after and frantically searches for Sasha, but to no avail. Desperate and alone, Lance continues his walk to the end. Losing his sanity, he eats several rats. He stops when he sees the door he and Houston saw earlier on their tour, and enters the room. He discovers it is the legendary operating room of the murderous doctor, and finds pictures of what appear to be his friends being operated on, as well as a Satanic altar. He turns around and sees nurses and the doctor working on a patient. The doctor then appears in front of the camera and screams with a grotesquely contorted face. Claiming Lance is insane, the doctor grabs him. The camera is pointed to a book on how to operate on mental patients, with Lance screaming in the background. The camera goes out for a moment and then returns to Lance, whose eyes are bleeding, implying he had a lobotomy. He says a few parting words, "The doctor said, I can go home now," before the screen finally goes blue.


Grave Encounters received mixed reviews from critics. While the New York Press granted it the "Scariest Film Since The Ring", other reviews were not as favorable. FleshEatingZipper wrote, "...this bastard child of The Blair Witch Project and House on Haunted Hill provides less scares than both combined." The rating website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a mixed rating of 43%.

The Cast

Sean Rogerson as Lance Preston
 Juan Riedinger as Matt White
 Ashleigh Gryzko as Sasha Parker
 Mackenzie Gray as Houston Gray
 Merwin Mondesir as T.C Gibson

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