Actors: Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger and Ashleigh Gryzko
Synopsis: A group of "Ghost Hunters" attempt to cash in on reality TV, and spend what they think is a harmless night in an inactive asylum. Unfortunately for them, they may have stumbled onto the genuine article in this found footage thriller.
Ah, yes. Found footage. The wave of the future for cheaper film making. The very concept has undoubtedly struck a nerve in many fan boys and horror buffs, and has even crept into the mainstream genres with big studio action and comedy releases. Love it, or hate it, its definitely an excellent tool for creative first time film makers to leave their mark on the horror genre. This film is no exception.
Latching onto the success of its predecessors, Grave Encounters is a supernatural horror and thrill ride in the vein of Paranormal Activity and the mother of all, The Blair Witch Project. What separates this little known Canadian gem from the former are a few key things: It actually had me scared for the characters, and it gave a legitimate reason to use the cameras. What I am trying to say here is bold. This film is the best supernatural found footage film I have seen, not including the [REC] films.
The film starts out with your typical "On this day, these douchebags went here and never came back. This is their footage." What you find out immediately, however, is that it was a production team of hosts, paranormal "experts", and camera crew out to shoot one of those many Ghost Hunters type shows, called Grave Encounters. A very talented Sean Rogerson does an outstanding job playing the pretentious host, Lance Preston. He solidifies this by playing heavily on the self importance we have seen from the main host of the show Paranormal State, before it was hopefully cancelled.
Lance, with his team of Matt, Sasha, T.C., and "psychic" prima donna Houston Gray embark on an episode of the show to an abandoned mental asylum with a rich history of tragedy. The team start to make camp, using the cameras to get scary exterior shots, time lapses (excellent touch), and general goofing around. The cameras inside the building are set up at multiple and stationary angles, really giving a legit reason for there to always have footage rolling. As the night goes on, more and more strange, and increasingly violent things begin to happen to this rag tag team of would be TV stars.
I do not want to spoil any of the details, because I really like how this movie unfolds for the viewer. The more you watch, the more you start to believe the performances, as well. For a group of indie and unknown faces, there is a degree of chemistry you dont often see in low budget, or even higher budget horror films. The Ad-lib talent is seamless and it helps create the most realistic type of response and direction for our characters to go through.
The use of special effects in this film is not too shabby either. You are given some digital stuff for obvious budgetary reasons, but there's plenty of practical tricks behind and in front of the camera to keep any purist happy. Although there's a bit of an overuse of digital tape freezing and skipping for transition reasons, its understandable from the film makers point of view. All in all, I was pretty impressed.
Now unlike most twists in other (lesser) films, the twist in this film is dropped pretty early on. I am not going to give anything away, but it is one of the most frightening and hopeless twists in the genre, and is executed with finesse.
My final verdict is very obvious: Check this one out! The most valuable thing is an even mixture of the acting and the writing, which are key in making a film like this effective. If you have any ill will towards the supernatural and believe in hauntings, this is a must see alone in a dark room. Hell, I don't believe in Casper and it had me nervously going to the kitchen for a drink.
Highly recommended, available for disc rental on Netflix, and for purchase on Amazon. Unfortunately,there doesn't seem to be a Blu Ray coming out any time soon, but its not like you need high def to make this film any better than it already is.