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Leaping enthusiastically onto the mocumentary-style-horror bandwagon comes Grave Encounters.

Gave Encounters demon – SFX provided by Adobe After Effects (free edition)

How best to sum up this movie? Hmm…well, I strongly suspect that the film-makers watched Paranormal Activity and, with dollar signs dancing in their eyes, decided to inject lots of gore, painful clichés and horrible characters. Oh and also the type of special effects most often seen in youtube videos. I’m guessing they also watched Blair Witch Project, and having seen these two subtle films – which use suggestion and a fear of the unknown to gradually build the tension to a pique of gut wrenching anxiety –  then decided “sod that, let’s just spray some fake blood around!”

The “plot” involves this group of dick heads ‘paranormal investigators:

From left to right: ubiquitous emo chick; the camera man; Yvette Fielding and Derek Acorah.

I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust this bunch of Prima Donas to investigate the inside of a paper bag, never mind a haunted mentalist asylum. Deliberately characterised as having the same standard of investigative journalism as the crew of Most Haunted, it’s hardly surprising that this bunch are neither likeable nor intelligent. And yes the prat in the middle is as irritating as he looks. About the only thing that is’t cliché in this film is that the crew are portrayed as totally unlikable douche-bags: the resident psychic is an actor and the main reporter is happy to bribe people into making shit up for the camera.

As this is a mocumentary horror, it begins with the now indispensable framing element: this time a big-wig from the production company making oh-so-subtle allusions to the ‘infamous episode 6.’ I don’t know why they didn’t just have lightning flashing and bats squeaking as he does his piece to camera. And if ANYBODY asks if this film is based on real events, I am going to track them down and punch them in the face.

Cliché number 2 is the nausea inducing shaky cam. Film-makers please note: flinging your camera around like a hippy-mom doing baby yoga does NOT make your film any more believable OR tense. Cliché number 3 is the truly horrible ‘archive footage’ of (cliché number 4) the asylum’s resident Dr Mengele. Cliché number 5 is the chats the crew have with the building’s ground workers and the stories they tell about ghostly sightings. Cliché number 6 is that they decide to lock themselves in the building over night…I could go on.

The scares start slowly and predictably: doors slam, objects moving about of their own accord, a girl’s hair gets pulled, blurry figures in photographs and all the usual bumps, bangs and squeaks we have come to expect. The tension peaks a couple of times but it’s hardly up to the standard of Paranormal Activity. The scares are poorly timed. After the crew have locked themselves in they basically freak out like a bunch of little girls the second anything even remotely scary happens.

Then the knob-head camera man decides to go off on his own and promptly disappears (clichés 7 and 8? I lost count).  So the crew decide to try and force their way out of the building using a gurney as a battering-ram. Yea I know – these ‘paranormal investigators’ who were so desperate to get a scoop now turn tail and run the moment they get some action.

The only decent horror moment happens once they force their way through the front door to discover…that they are still inside the building. Ahh…Blair Witch did it so much better, with the forest that refused to allow its victims to leave. But this film has already sucked out any real horror by ramming despicable characters and cheap shock tactics down its audience’s throat.

It’s now 8.24 am and pitch black – the sun should have risen at 7.45 am. An attempt to escape via the roof leads them to a bricked-up wall. Clearly something doesn’t want them to leave – and admittedly this is creepy – but from this point on the film descends into mindless silliness.

Politest. Demon. Ever.

A hospital bed starts flying violently around the room. One of the crew gets pushed down the stairs. Goth chick gets ‘HELLO’ scratched into her back. Seriously? Hello? Demons from the underworld go to the effort of mutilating a person with a cheery greeting?! A demon girl shows up and screams with a youtube distorted face at the camera. Derek Accorah floats in mid air. The crew wake up with medical armbands with their names on. They find the camera man Geoff dressed up as a patient and babbling about his ‘diagnosis’ and how they can’t leave until they are ‘cured.’ Yea, we get it guys – they can’t leave the nut-house, just like all the tortured souls of the patients.

This film will have you climbing the walls – to get away

Arms reach from the ceiling and try to grab them. The bath tub (where an inmate slit her wrists) fills with blood and the camera man is grabbed and pulled inside where he disappears. A dude with his tongue cut out hangs from the ceiling while (what’s left of) the crew try to escape into the building’s underground tunnel system.

The film ends with the usual rubbish. Dr Mengele was doing satanic experiments on the patients and the lead reporter, having spent hours walking through an unending tunnel (where Goth girl was carried off by some smoke) wanders into his operating room to become his next victim.

This film is for the type of person who likes gore-heavy scares, little plot, LOTS of clichés and horrible characters you actively want to see die. So basically it wasn’t for me. If you thought Paranormal Activity was dull and lacked ‘real scares’ you’ll probably like this.

I hated it.  When the lead reporter screams the indispensable mocumentary line (which is supposed to act as motivation for continuing to film as they fight for their lives): “PEOPLE ARE GONNA WANT TO SEE THIS!!!” I yelled back “I DON’T!” and threw a pillow at the TV.  It’s a Blair Witch rip off moved from the woods to an insane asylum and it sucks.

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