Tribeca Film Is Back On Demand With GRAVE ENCOUNTERSAugust 31, 2011
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (Tribeca Film).
Or why in the world would anyone spend the night in a creepy, abandoned mental hospital?!
By Cynthia Kane
Ghost stories will never go out of fashion. They’ve enthralled us humans since time began. We all like to be scared; we all like to watch a good thriller; we love horror. Paranormal activity, astral projection, zombies, vampires and connection with the dead are all the rage – see prime time television any night of the week.
So it doesn’t matter whether this film is real or a piece of fiction.
And oh boy… I expected to dislike GRAVE ENCOUNTERS – a kind of rip-off BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, mock-umentary, fake reality show, first-time directed by some guys called the Vicious Brothers.
But you know, I couldn’t help myself; I got into it. It’s scary.
Here we follow a small 20-something crew with a reality show on paranormal activity decides they’ll spend the night at the old and abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital somewhere in Maryland outside Baltimore. The investigating team arrive, already enjoying themselves, laughing, full of skepticism, even though the place purports to be a hotbed of weird, psychic and ghostly phenomenon, given the drastic and unsavory experiments practiced on patients in the 30s, 40s and 50s – lobotomies, weird experiments, etc.
We’re told the place was abandoned in the early 60s. Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) is our host. He’s invited a renowned (and bogus) psychic, Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray) to spend the night with him, locked inside, roaming the halls, to claim to feel a presence or two.
They – the ghost hunters and crew – are having a good time of it, until their sound guy suddenly disappears. As they try to find him in the massive complex, what starts off as a quirky night for good ratings turns evil and twisted. Corridors turn into mazes that never end, staircases suddenly lead to nowhere.
Dark, gnarly tunnels and bathrooms with tubs filled with blood and human matter. The entrance doors are locked and the windows open and close at their own will. Objects move and floats, their food rots into disgusting slop. The night never seems to end.
Then we encounter the tortured phantoms. Captured on video. Bursting into frame, then gone, then back again, screeching, moaning; it works; it makes you jump; it’s genuinely creepy and scared the be-jesus out of me.
And what are we finally left with? Supposed….someone found this mysterious video footage left behind – but where are those who shot it? No one knows. Not anyone.
Yet the filmmakers call it a “found footage film”, but my understanding of found footage has a slightly different connotation. Found footage has been used by experimental filmmakers since filmmaking began, so this purported new style using ‘found footage’ is nothing actually new, but it has trickled its way up slowly to be utilized by more mainstream filmmakers. And that’s a good thing. Because it’s fun to work with found footage on the filmmaking side; you can be incredibly creative and do all sorts of unexpected and well, experimental things; it’s also alluring to an audience, providing for something quirky, innovative and out of the ordinary.
There’s no such place as Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital – you know why I know? Because I got so much into to this mock-doc, I searched and searched the internet. It turns out the team took the name from the Collingwood Stockade which was an actual stockade in Victoria state in Australia, which afterwards was turned into a mental asylum and then closed around 1873 because it was so brutally run. They shot this film not in Oz but in Vancouver at a hospital now closed down and used for film and television shoots, where the real cast and crew live and work. And like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, they’re friends who got together to shot this for very little money.
Brilliant, this film is not; low tech it is. Acting is so-so, but you sense everyone’s enjoying themselves immensely. Playing and poking fun at all the new ghost-hunting reality shows is more than entertaining and should attract a teen and twenty-something audience, although it’s a fun ride for anyone who likes a good ghostly tale.
Who are these brothers? The Vicious Twins? 25-year old Colin and Stuart collaborated here for their first feature and have a lot more ideas ready to go. Music video is their background prior to this. Are they really brothers? Is their last name really Vicious? How delicious is that? (Nah, real names are actually Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan. But really, you are who you want to be.)
I guess we’ll find out as we see more from these lads.
- Cynthia Kane
Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.
Look for GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (Tribeca Film) under your cable system's On Demand section.
Read Other Reviews By Cynthia Kane:
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM - DEMAND IT
DEAR ALICE - DEMAND IT
KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS - DEMAND IT
MY DOG TULIP - DEMAND IT
WE ARE THE NIGHT - DEMAND IT
L’AMOUR FOU - DEMAND IT
THE PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER - DEMAND IT
ALBAKIARA - DEMAND IT
NEDS - DEMAND IT
CEREMONY - DEMAND IT