Movie Review-'Grave Encounters' Franchise and Why I'm Defending It
What Are Both Films About?
I love a good found footage movie and Grave Encounters is a strong entry in the genre. The film focuses on a group of people who work for a television series that investigate paranormal encounters. The producer of the show locates some footage recovered from a never-before-seen final episode that was filmed 7 years ago when the cast and crew vanished into thin air.
The new cast and crew go to the abandoned Collingwood Hospital to investigate the scenes captured on the recovered footage. They feel the footage is baseless and they just intend to film a show.
Things begin to get creepy fairly early after their tour with the caretaker of the grounds. Poor Sasha is the first to freak out when something touches her hair while they're filming. Tension builds and more noises, bangs, and movements are seen and heard. The group decides to wait at the checkpoint to be let out in the morning, rather than continue their investigation. They have to wait all night.
The cast in this movie is relatively unknown. There are some notable names such as Sean Rogerson, who stars in the sequel and has a rather extensive career behind him in movies and television. T.C is played by Merwin Mondesir. The only movie I recognized off his resume was Lost Boys: The Tribe. That was a pretty lousy film. However, if you're a fan of the new series Riverdale, he’s in that apparently.
Grave Encounters 2 is about Alex Wright—a film student going to university with a bunch of his friends. He receives a message on the internet while flicking through reviews about the first Grave Encounters. Fans (it's speculated they are real fans and real reviews) talk about how the footage and the movie are real. The message is from DeathAwaits6, who leads them on a search. First, they meet the producer of the original film and then the mother of Lance Preston, the protagonist of the first film. Alex is trying to get to the bottom of whether or not there is any truth to the found footage or to the story about the entire cast and crew going missing.
Against his friend's protests, Alex decides to travel to the location of the first film. They reluctantly join along. As they begin filming the location from their idling car, a security guard tries to seize the camera but the crew quickly smack him out of the open window and they speed away. They decide that if there is a security guard on a site with this much of a reputation, there must be something to the story. They return at night with fancy equipment and glow markers to light their way.
Quick Film Info
- Title: . Grave Encounters
- Director: The Vicious Brothers.
- Writers: The Vicious Brothers.
- Date of Release: June 2011/Canadian.
- Genre: Horror-found footage style.
- Budget: $2 million.
- Box Office: $5.408 million.
What the Critics Thought
One word that comes up often in reviews of both movies is derivative. This is due to the surrounding success of similar movies, such as Rec, which were released around the same time. The consensus is that the Grave Encounters movies were inferior to others in the genre. I am not saying that they are better than their contemporaries. I am just saying that they're not bad when judged on their own merits. Some critics say they're total rip-offs. These films may have sub par special effects and are a little messy around the edges, but I still think that they deserve more credit. I enjoyed a lot of the things that these critics stuck their noses up at.
My Thoughts on the First Film
Movies about exorcisms and paranormal activity usually cause me to turn on all the lights. This film does have some scenes that will stay with you but they are brought down by other moments that just didn't look real enough for me. This is where a lot of the bad press comes from.
Other movies released at the time went for unseen but dramatic scares. This film tries to scare you using people in makeup. Another thing that annoyed me was that they broke some of the scary movie rules. The first thing they do is split up; they even acknowledge that it’s a bad idea but they do it anyway. I feel this only works in a movie if the characters aren’t aware that something is after them.
These people have all the equipment and seemingly know what they're doing and when they find actual evidence that something is amiss, they split up! Given that this came out after The Last Exorcism (2010) and the first and second Paranormal Activity films (2007 and 2010), which I thought were rather scary, this movie was pretty easy to miss. I’m sure I saw it not long after it was out, but it wasn’t memorable enough.
I just kept thinking that this film had a lot more potential than what we got. They had everything they needed to make a top-notch movie. They slightly missed the mark for me. I still liked it though. It wasn’t just people aimlessly wandering around for no good reason. They had a purpose so the plot was sound. This movie only has two camps—the love or the hate. I loved it for its style and its story.
I give it 3.5 dead rats out of 5.
My Thoughts on the Second Film
I watched this pretty much straight after the original, the very next day actually. I was surprised by one thing and one thing only. The new guys researched the disappearances a little more enthusiastically, yet they end up in the very same predicament. Of course, there is a little twist.
The only safeguard they take is their super-duper walkie-talkies that are military grade and some glow-in-the-dark markers so they don’t get lost. I got a little bored at one point—just for about ten minutes or so during a few slightly different but very similar scares.
Seeing the budgets between both movies, this one had less money to work with than the original. I think they even borrowed a few bits from the first movie. What I wanted was a bit more background about the paranormal characters within the story. Some info on characters like Dr. Arthur Friedkin, the Tongueless Demon, and the Bathtub Demon would have been nice. I wanted a story I could latch onto. We hear a tiny bit about who they are and we see pictures of what Dr. Friedkin did but I wanted more history. I believe I may have thought more highly of both movies if this was done.
They introduce some new tricks that these entities can do and the fact that the writers gave them a bit of character was kind of cool but I wanted more. I liked this one slightly more than the original, which is the opposite of the critics and most reviews.
I enjoyed Alex Wright’s (Richard Harmon) character development. His quest to see the investigation out until the bitter end was appealing to me. The story itself had more depth about how involved the producer was. There is also the fact that the group this time are all friends, creating more empathy to their plight throughout the film.
I give this movie 4 super walkie-talkies out of 5.
Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz make up The Vicious Brothers. They are Canadian-American filmmakers.
Colin has been making films since the age of five and Stuart from the age of eight. They both met online on a film making forum in 1999.
Both writers had a small cameo in Grave Encounters 2, appearing in a room as interns to the producer while Alex is looking for clues.
In 2015, they announced there was a script for Grave Encounters III: The Beginning. We may see my wishes on the story come true.
I did find a Russian website that stated they had already started shooting in 2016. Perhaps it is about to be released and I just haven’t heard about it. There is a Facebook page that even has a promo poster for the sequel.
Apart from these two movies, they have only written one other film called Extraterrestrial in 2014. However, I discovered that one-half of the duo had directed a movie about zombies in 2016 titled It Stains the Sands Red. Both Colin and Stuart wrote and produced it but Colin directed it all by himself.
Hopefully this means that it could pave the way for the third installment of Grave Encounters. I know there are people out there waiting, just like me.
Riverview Hospital (AKA the Collingwood Hospital) Is an Actual Place
In the movie, the setting is called the Collingwood Hospital. It is actually a real location called the Riverview Hospital.
- It first opened as the Provincial Asylum for the Insane in 1904. It became filled beyond capacity.
- It was renamed Essondale Hospital in 1913.
- The name was changed to Riverview in 1966.
- An initiative to introduce better care for mental health caused patients to move into community-based clinics, causing many hospitals to close around 1998.
- The facility closed in 2012.
- In 2013, there were plans discussed to have the grounds rebuilt into some kind of housing which may include treatment for youth mental health among other programs.
The grounds comprised of:
- West Lawn, a wing for seriously ill male patients.
- Boys Industrial Wing, a school for boys which emphasized on curing delinquency.
- Centre Lawn, the acute psychopathic unit.
- East Lawn, the largest building which held female patients.
- Riverview Cemetery, which was located in the northern section of the grounds and is still being preserved. It was established for those who had no family or had requested to be laid to rest at the site. If the family did not look after the funeral arrangements, they were left in unmarked graves until the early 1920s.
Photos of the HospitalClick thumbnail to view full-size
Movies and TV Filmed Here
'Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem' (2007)
'The 4400' (2004 - 2007)
'Don't Talk to Strangers' (1994)
'Along Came a Spider' (2001)
'I Was a Teenage Faust' (2002)
'Case 39' (2009)
'Falling Skies' (2011-)
'Killer Bash' (2005)
'The Twilight Saga' ('Eclipse' in 2010 and 'New Moon' in 2009)
'Killer Hair' (2009)
'Jennifer Eight' (1992)
'The Time Tunnel' (2002)
'The X Files' (1993-1998)
'The X Files: I Want to Believe' (2008)
Do You Want to Visit This Amazing Film Location? Here Is Where It's Located
A Video of the Hospital Filmed by Drone in 2014
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