Grave Encounters (2011)

It seems like ages since 'The Blair Witch Project' captivated an unsuspecting audience, scaring up hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Hollywood though, despite the success, wasn't quite convinced that the "found footage" gimmick was something that audiences would really buy into. So it took a few years. Social media became more intrusive in our lives. Cheap flip cams let you upload footage on to YouTube seconds after it was shot and small independent production companies discovered that 'found footage' films were quick to make, easy to produce, and, if done right could make a ton of cash. So the "found footage" trend began, fed by the success of films like 'Paranormal Activity.'

'Grave Encounters' is a found footage film that follows a group of ghost hunters into an abandoned Maryland mental asylum whose past, like most abandoned mental asylums, is scarred with an unspeakable evil. The twist here is that these "ghost hunters" don't really believe in the ghosts they are hunting. They are here to produce a creepy looking TV show, ghosts or not. Host Lance Preston
(Sean Rogerson) introduces us to Collingwood Asylum. He breaks character a few times, admixing that he really doesn't believe they will find anything, but wanting a good show, he bribes a landscaper with 20 bucks to say he's seen some paranormal goings on at the asylum.

If you've seen any of the plethora of "ghost hunting" shows that pervade the broadcast day, you know what comes next. Lots of night vision shots. Lots of speculative banter. "Was that a noise"? "If it was a noise. What was the noise?" "It was some noise, so it must be a ghost." Everyone acts freaked out. Cut to commercial.

Thinking their job is done the crew packs up for the night to await the time when the caretaker is scheduled to let them out of the building. Only, the caretaker never shows up and that when, as they say, business started to pick up. Looking for their own escape route they soon discover that there really is no escape. Some typical "haunted house" film cliches start happening. Beads move, wheel chairs move, a girl stands in a corner - you've seen it before. But then things get physical.

Once the ghosts start really fucking with the film crew, the movie picks up it's relatively slow tempo. It makes the third act of the film a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the first tow acts. Does it mean 'Grave Encounters' is a good film. Not really. The film has more problems than Jay-Z. The characters are some of the dumbest outside of Friday the 13th part VIII and none of them are in the least bit likeable. There's nor felling or remorse when bad shit starts to happen. Most of them just whine and yell - a lot.

That being said, the twist at the end is intriguing and would be more so had something similar not been done in 'Rec/Quarantine' a couple of years before. But that's what the film is, a conglomeration of shit we've all seen before in films like 'Rec' and 'Blair Witch' and the countless "Ghost Hunters" type shows. In the end, 'Grave Encounters' is not a bad film, it just feels like deja vu, over and over again.

**1/2 stars out of 5

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