Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grave Encounters (2011)

Hi guys, and welcome to the first installment of a new series on this blog called “Movies Rob Wants to Watch.” He has sent me an email with three more MRWTW and they are all pretty much the same movie as this one so buckle up babies—this shit’s about to get paranormal!

I was bothered by something while watching the Canadian horror production Grave Encounters: the lead actor looked SO familiar to me but I could not place him. My cousin Vicky is an occupational therapist which is practically a doctor and she says that everyone Googling everything on their smartphones all the time instead of trying to remember things is going to give us all Alzheimer’s so I didn’t look it up and instead just racked my brain trying to figure out where I knew him from. I had just about decided that he was just a thinner, Canadian, cut-rate version of Dean from 'Supernatural' when around the 23-minute mark I remembered what I knew him from: GRAVE ENCOUNTERS. I had seen this before.

Have you done this before? I mean, seen a movie so unmemorable that it took a significant portion of the film to actually trigger the memory of having seen it already? If so, please post the movie in the comments-- I am interested to see what movies are so dull they couldn't even stick in your brain. This is actually the second time I’ve déjà vu-ed a crappy horror film; the first one was a real shitshow on OnDemand called Grave Dancers and I honestly didn’t remember it until ten minutes before the end when they trotted out a pyromaniac child dancing in a room of fire. Either I watch way too many terrible movies or I already have a memory disorder as per Dr. Vicky’s prediction.

Anyway, Grave Encounters. This is a movie about a paranormal investigation television show gone terribly wrong inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Like 99% of horror filmed in 2011, it is found-footage style which makes me want to put a Dramamine patch behind my ear because I’m your grandma.

A cast and crew of four men and one woman are locked inside the hospital overnight after a tour of the supposedly haunted facilities. They set up a bunch of steady cams and then walk around doing various paranormal activity testing to try to stir up some ghostly moments. Eventually some scary-ish stuff happens, then the caretaker doesn’t come back to let them out as planned, then more scary-ish stuff happens, then they break through the front door and instead of finding the outside, they find another hallway.

First, certainly the abandoned psychiatric hospital scenario has been played out on a number of occasions, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot that can be done with it. It’s a terrifying concept but Grave Encounters really falls flat with it. Like, just parade out a variety of crazed ghosts and sadistic doctors and I’ll probably be scared. Don’t try to convince me that it’s a portal for Canadian demons, and definitely don’t do both of those things. And MOST DEFINITELY don’t do both those things AND have someone’s death occur via a disappearance into a mysterious fog AND have the building have the ability to shapeshift AND have no one die until like the 70th minute.

I feel like the writing/directing duo of Grave Encounters (the Vicious Brothers—not brothers, questionably vicious, definitely Canadian)wrote everything they knew about horror movies onto slips of paper and threw them into a hat, then instead of picking out random pieces they just dumped them onto the floor and used them all. Here are some highlights:

      Every good movie using a psychiatric hospital has to have a room with writing all over the wall, right? This one has it, and it has in big letters:

That is actually what it says. In the movie. These are definitely Metallica lyrics, right? Like post-rehab-James-Hetfield Metallica lyrics? 

At one point, a member of the crew wakes up with words scratched into the skin on her back. Kinda spooky, and at first I thought it said “HELP” like, “help me, I am a patient in this hospital and am living in terrible conditions and these doctors want to stick a needle in my eye!” Nope. It seriously says “HELLO.” ‘Sup, buddy?

I am desperately trying to remember actual physical threats to the characters in this movie. There are a few scenes where demon-like creatures come at them (but don’t seem to do any damage?) and of course the aforementioned scene where someone is just whisked away in a cloud of smoke but otherwise, they are few and far between. For instance, in one scene a bunch of hands inexplicably come through the ceiling (15 feet above the characters’ heads) and that’s about it. Again, ‘sup?

Obviously this movie is fairly unmemorable, since I didn't remember it.

I’d be remiss without pointing out some enjoyable parts of this one: the changing building scared me in a claustrophobic way…in the third act, our intrepid crew believes they have found roof access but the stairwell ends in a completely sealed wall, and that kind of gave me the shivers. The ‘medium’ character is a decent comic relief. There is a scene where a ghost doctor gives a ghost patient a lobotomy which caused me to remember a phrase that my Uncle Frank always used to say: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy” and I said that to Rob like I’d made it up so he thought I was really funny and I liked that (Uncle Frank didn’t make it up either). So, you know, that’s something.

Lucky you guys though, at the top of the list of MRWTW is Grave Encounters 2! I am like 99% sure I have not seen that (and 99% sure that no one else has, either). 

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