Movie Review: "Seconds Apart" (2011)

Okay, so I just watched this movie and wanted to write the review right away before I forgot things. I know I've been neglecting this blog lately and I need to get back to it. Let me just start by stating the obvious and shallow: HOT TWINS. I mean, let's be honest here. They could've cast average looking guys to play Seth and Jonah, but they didn't. They found two specimens of boyhood that look like someone cloned Jared Leto and then cut him in half. Jesus Christ. These characters are supposed to be weirdos and outcasts and no one in the school will talk to them, so all they have is each other. They were born exactly 93 seconds apart. 

Which might explain why they SLEEP IN THE SAME BED.

This image has NOT been photoshopped. It is a screenshot from the movie. Glory, glory Hallelujah! I was never before one of those odd birds who shipped twins or got excited at the thought of twins or thought about doing things with two twins at the same time, but hey--THANKS A LOT, "Seconds Apart!" I really appreciate you turning me into one of those people I used to think were kind of weird and perverted. Thanks. A LOT.

Never before has a guy giving his brother his Insulin shot been so erotically confusing.

Anyway, back to the actual MOVIE REVIEW, it's really good. Not just because of the eye candy aspect. The basic gist is that these two brothers have a telekinetic link between them that they are experimenting with. (Oooh, experimenting! Sorry.) And they like to film it when they use their "gift" to make people hallucinate and bend to their will, usually resulting in the people doing awful and violent things to themselves. I won't spoil any of it for you but I will honestly say that there were two specific scenes that succeeded in making me cringe and one of them even made me a bit nauseous. There was also a female character that they messed with in a way that bothered me a little bit, but I liked the movie otherwise so much that I can overlook that. It's something new and cool, and it's BEAUTIFULLY shot. (No, I'm not just talking about the twins. GOD, stop obsessing, you guys!)

I mean, I can't blame you.

But the movie also features a surprisingly serious and dramatic but very well acted performance by Orlando Jones. I've only ever seen him in comedic roles before this one, and his character in this is TRAGIC. I felt really awful for the guy the whole time. He's essentially the Detective with the eventful (read: SAD AS FUCK) past who's trying to figure out how the twins are involved in all the deaths that keep happening around them.

The whole movie goes back and forth between beautiful imagery involving things like fire and ice and cool scenery in general and some pretty violent stuff. I wouldn't recommend this one for the faint of heart. It's not the goriest of movies, but it's definitely disturbing. And the plot descends into darker and weirder territory as the story goes on. I found myself saying, "What the fuck? REALLY?" A couple of times. And then feeling generally turned on in all the wrong ways numerous other times. (I figured I should include ALL possible warnings for you folks. This movie could be capable of pushing all sorts of your buttons!)

I loved it. 

I've also decided that sometimes, five pints of blood just aren't enough to give certain movies. So I'm changing my ratings system from 5 pints being the highest to 10 pints being the highest. I'm giving "Seconds Apart" 8 out of 10 pints. Perhaps the only reason it didn't get more than that is because I can't tell 100% for certain if I was partially blinded by lust the whole time, but I really do stand by my opinion that this is an interesting and well put together horror movie that's totally worth watching. 

Um, especially if you're a lady or a gay man. I'M JUST SAYING YOU MIGHT GET A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA OUT OF IT, YOU GUYS. 


Movie Review: "The Cabin in the Woods"

I’ll start this one out by leveling with you: I did not hate this movie, but I’m one of the few people out there that didn’t love it. Truthfully, I went in with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth because of an interview I read in Entertainment Weekly in which Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard essentially did the thing I hate most in this WORLD, which is call the “SAW” franchise “torture porn” and then proceed to say that they wanted to write something different and better. I can only assume they haven’t even bothered to watch every installment of the franchise, but more on that in another blog post that I’m working on that’s all about “SAW” and nothing else. Considering the fact that practically every horror fan I know had RAVED about this movie and told me I HAD to see it, I tried to watch it with an open mind despite my fangirl anger.

And really, it played out like any other horror movie would. I mean, I GET it. I understand why it’s supposedly clever and groundbreaking and why so many people love it. “This movie twists the horror genre around and exposes it!” etc. etc. Most people have said that it’s supposed to be a sort of love letter to the genre. My personal opinion, though, which I’m fully aware will not be popular, is a different one. I kind of got the impression that it was making fun of horror. As in, “Hey, look how stupid these movies actually are, that all you guys like so much.” Here’s WHY the main characters act so stupid, here’s why they eventually get what they deserve. We imagined an explanation and it’s funny, right?

The references to other classic horror movies are definitely there, like all the monsters listed on that board that COULD have been chosen. I’m not ruling out the possibility that the intentions here were good ones. And yes, the last twenty minutes or so were delightfully bloody. I did enjoy a couple of the death scenes specifically because they certainly aren’t something you’d see every day! But the overall reasoning behind what was happening just seemed a little too grandiose for me to the point of just being dumb. And the stoner was annoying. (Sorry, I know he’s everyone’s favorite.)

It was kinda cool to see Chris Helmsworth in a role other than Thor, even if there wasn’t much to the character. (Typical high school jock, etc.) Later in the movie when something unpleasant happened to him, it was kind of fun to shout “Loki’d!” at the screen. And Kristen Connolly was convincingly sympathetic and likable. But why did the slutty blonde character look like she was in her late 30s? (Was that the point/joke? Since she was so desperate to dye her hair? Just wondering.)

An English writer named Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch apparently once said in a literary speech to “Murder your darlings.” I think that Joss Whedon might secretly have this quote tattooed somewhere on his body, because none of his characters are safe, ever. I suppose no one’s really safe in a horror movie, but he has a definite, morbid track record with everything he’s done that I’ve seen. Kind of masochistic for someone who “detests torture porn” and thinks the horror genre has “devolved.” Just saying.

In conclusion, there were a few cool moments but this movie pats itself on the back WAY too hard. It’s not something I’d personally revisit again. 1 and 1/2 out of 5 Pints of Blood.


Movie Review: "Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead"

It’s rare that a horror sequel is decent. Rarer still that a direct to DVD movie that received no promotion whatsoever that also happens to be a horror sequel and has a ridiculous pun like “Dead Ahead” for a title is not only decent, but WAY BETTER than the first movie. Not just better, I’d say it blows the first one out of the water. Within the first five minutes you get a grizzly murder that makes one thing very clear: this flick is all sorts of fucked up.

Normally I wouldn’t bother with a direct-to-DVD sequel. I’d just assume it’s going to be terrible. But I caught this one on TV one day and was shocked by how brutal it was. The only tie to the plot of the first one is the trucker character antagonist. Is the acting great? Actually, it’s not bad. They didn’t get any big names for the teenagers (you don’t have to deal with Leelee Sobieski!), but they cast people that are convincing enough, manage not to be over the top, and actually do a decent job of winning you over and/or pissing you off when they’re supposed to. (One of the male characters is the typical obnoxious asshole that you hate right off the bat, but you actually feel REALLY bad for him near the end. An actor with less talent would not have been able to pull this off.)

This is NOT the same trucker from the first “Joy Ride.” I mean, it IS. It’s still “Rusty Nail.” They have a different actor playing him, (though you never really see his face and the voice is similar so you really don’t notice a continuity change.) But this version of the character is a much more worthy and intimidating foe. He is a sadistic douchebag who delights in murdering strangers. There’s none of that whiny, “But I wanted to talk to Candy Cane! You mean Paul Walker’s SPOT ON impression of a sexy lady wasn’t actually a sexy lady?!” stuff happening. And the writers at least gave Rusty a slightly better motive this time for going on a little killing spree. Maybe not FULLY justifiable for what he does, I mean he overreacts a TAD, but it’s certainly more believable and less laughable than a horny old man defending his wounded Dixie pride.

The stakes are much higher in this story. Remember in the first movie, when Rusty Nail told Paul Walker and Steve Zahn, (poor, lovable and underappreciated Steve Zahn), to walk into a crowded truck stop diner completely naked or else he’d do something drastic? Oh, MAN! That’s like something a college frat would do! Absolutely TERRIFYING! Well, this time he actually asks things of the characters that not even the ballsiest drunken college dick would be willing to try, even if the big man on campus was watching. Without getting too detailed, for example: Would you cut something off of your body to save someone close to you? Think about it. That SUCKS, right? Talk about a deal breaker! That makes a relationship real awkward real fast. Rusty Nail is playing a twisted game with the teenagers this time around. He wants them to suffer for his own enjoyment, because that’s just the sort of charming dude he is. I want to give you this warning, since I know there are all sorts of different types of horror fans out there: there IS a very graphic torture scene somewhat late into the movie, so if you have a weak constitution for that sort of thing this may not be the horror flick for you.

One of the things I personally loved (that’s right, I said it-“loved”), about this movie, is the way the characters think. These aren’t your average dumbass teenagers getting chased by a psychopath and proceeding to make the most frustrating decisions imaginable. They’re SMART. They actually think things through and try to be inventive. Whether or not their ideas work is up for you to find out, but it’s refreshing to see a movie, with female protagonists no less, in which you DON’T find yourself wanting to yell at the people involved for doing insanely dumb things. You actually sympathize.

I always try not to get too spoilery with my reviews, because the primary intention of this blog is to encourage people to watch these movies. (Except for the one or two here and there that I may HATE. But those are rare.) So I’ll just mention a few more things without ruining them for you. There are some pretty ballsy, extreme things in this movie that really impressed me. Have you ever seen someone be murdered with just the chain from a chainsaw? Not like THIS, you haven’t! Also, if you sit down to watch this movie prepare for a little bit of an emotional shot to the chones because while I consider myself capable of being somewhat heartless sometimes, one or two of the kills made me think “Wow, I can’t believe they went there.” Brutal.

My only issue with the movie, really, is the ending. But I guess it’s tough in Hollywood when you’re writing a direct-to-DVD horror script and you’re expected to please a studio by following certain money-making “rules” for the genre. There’s not a lot of wiggle room for creativity. Horror can only go so far with reinventing the wheel unless you’re working with an indie studio, releasing the thing yourself, etc. I wasn’t expecting a groundbreaking conclusion from this one. I still say it’s worth watching.

This movie gets 4 out of 5 Pints of Blood.


Movie Review: "The Ruins" (2008)

Factual Fact #1: This film was made by Spyglass Entertainment AND Ben Stiller’s production company, Red Hour films, meaning it was partially produced by Ben Stiller! (It is NOT a comedy, nor is it a horror comedy. At all.)
Factual Fact #2: This film is based on a book that I have not read, but would like to at some point. I don’t know how the adaptation compares to the source material.
I had low expectations for this movie going in. All I knew was, it had something to do with killer plants, and Jena Malone was in the cast, and she’s cool because she always chooses weird roles and she was Gretchen in “Donnie Darko” and that movie pretty much rules always. But guess what? I LOVED THIS MOVIE, you guys. I’m going to start my review out by saying it gets 5 out of 5 pints of blood. That is the most possible pints!
In the great tradition of horror movies that confirm young Americans should never venture outside the borders of the United States for any reason whatsoever, this film starts out with two couples taking a fun vacation to Mexico. (What could possibly go wrong with that, right?) Well, if you meet someone there who says his brother is missing and he’s looking for someone to help him find the guy, follow the second rule and DO NOT be a good Samaritan. (So we’ve got two rules so far: Do not go to other countries and do not be nice to people you don’t know.) I should probably mention that what happens to the characters is not in any way the guy’s fault. It’s not like he purposefully leads them into danger; he’s just trying to find his bro. But STILL. Come on, guys! Just say, “Tough break, man.” And then go out for some authentic margaritas.
Anyways. Cut to: Some Mayan ruins. Lots of people visit stuff like this every day in real life because they want to “broaden their cultural horizons” or just see some shit that they haven’t seen before because it doesn’t exist in America and it’s all historical and junk. But if someone has gone missing and it could potentially be linked to said Mayan ruins, that means something about this place is FUCKED UP. And booooyyyyyy is it! I am going to try not to spoil the good stuff in this movie but at least hint at some things because I liked it SO much that I really want people to watch it. There’s a lot more to it than just dangerous greenery.
Okay, so first of all, you have the element of utter terror these people and their new friend are experiencing once they end up TRAPPED at the top of the ruins by a group of local villagers with GUNS who will not let them leave. If they try to set foot off of the thing, they will get SHOT DEAD. And they have no clue why. There’s a language barrier, so there’s no way to communicate what the fuck is happening.  It’s all a nightmarish descent downhill from there.
“The Ruins” gets very unnerving very quickly and it’s extremely bloody. (Also, NOT for the squeamish.) The gore factor is delightful and much higher than I expected. The way the “man eating vines” are used as far as how they choose to attack people is NOT monster movie-ish at all, but rather very disturbing and gross. The makeup and special effects are AWESOME. (I absolutely ADORE “Little Shop of Horrors,” but I assure you that you will not see a huge, foam rubber Venus Flytrap chomping down on anyone.)
Quick PSA:
Do you have issues with things crawling around UNDERNEATH a person’s skin? Do not watch this movie.
Do you have issues with amateur surgery done without the proper tools or anesthetic and seeing EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING? Do not watch this movie.
Do you have issues with very grim, disturbing and sad things happening to people? Do not—You get the point.
The only downsides, in my opinion:
-          Alright. There’s something that happens that I think the screenwriter intended to come across as creative and creepy. (“OH! This is NEW!”) But it doesn’t. It’s probably one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in a horror movie in a while, and it briefly took me out of the film completely. I don’t want to say exactly what it is because again, I want EVERYONE to watch “The Ruins” and I don’t want to jeopardize the chances of that happening. But I will say that it involves flowers. And it’s really fucking dumb. You’re gonna be like, “What?! Are you kidding me with this shit? That is the dumbest thing ever!” But GUYS, please stick with the movie because I PROMISE you it just keeps getting better and better after that little hiccup. The movie just gets increasingly screwed up and wonderful and bloody and you’re going to forget all about the ridiculousness that just happened.
-          Some of the characters’ decisions and general behavior towards others are questionable. Then again, if I personally think a character is an asshole I then believe that every single thing that person does is the wrong move. I get attached to certain people and defensive, etc.
Overall, this movie is awesome. Before I watched it I wasn’t sure if I would even like it at all and I LOVED it. Even the ending is great. (A tad predictable, yes, but I still enjoyed it.) If you’re going to watch the dvd, get the Unrated Cut! That’s the one I watched. According to the most reliable source of all sources, the INTERNET, there are two other endings: The theatrical one, which isn’t very different from the one I saw but it’s more hopeful, which in this case doesn’t really fit the movie, and an ending that from my understanding wasn’t used anywhere and is VERY Hollywood friendly and like too many other things I’ve seen before, so I’m glad that one didn’t come into play. (Oh, and it also involves that dumb thing that I hated! Boo!) The point is, the best ending is on the Unrated Cut, which I think most horror fans would watch anyway because we all love our films Unrated. AmIright?
Again, 5 out of 5 Pints of Blood.


Movie Review: "Insidious" (2011)

I had heard mixed reviews about this movie before I finally saw it, which was on DVD because I unfortunately missed it in the theater. Of course, said reviews meant nothing to me because this movie came from the writer/director team responsible for the “SAW” franchise, with which I am in a seriously devoted horror relationship that will last to my grave and beyond. Director James Wan and, (dreamy sigh), screenwriter Leigh Whannell/love of my life can do no wrong in my eyes. Not even “Dead Silence,” which the two of THEM do not recommend to their own fans. (But it’s mainly the studio’s fault on that one. Long story for a different day.)
Anyway, I watched this movie alone in my childhood bedroom back home while I was visiting my family for Christmas. It was late at night. I wanted to create “the mood,” so I turned off all the lights. About twenty seconds into the opening scene, I reached over and turned the lamp back on.
Look. I get annoyed by those horror fans that walk around with their chests puffed out saying, “Nothing scares me! Every horror movie is garbage! I am unshakable and awesome! Give me a fucking medal because I’ve never even felt uneasy for a second of my brave, ass-kicking life!” But the truth is, MOST of the time, I can handle movies with ghost-centric scares. Sometimes, I can’t. (See my past review of “The Haunting in Connecticut,” for example.) I ain’t too proud to admit that the first three-fourths of “Insidious” fucked my shit UP.
The acting is GREAT, first off. Rose Byrne pulls off a perfect portrayal of “terrorized by spirits” without going over the top and Patrick Wilson can handle pretty much any role in my opinion. You’ve also got Barbara Hershey NOT being the creepy one for once, (“Black Swan,” anyone?) and an effective performance by Lin Shaye, who portrays an odd, older woman who communicates with other realms. She just so happens to have two assistants with “Ghost Hunters” type equipment. One of them is named Specs and he’s played by none other than screenwriter/aforementioned love of my life, Leigh Whannell. Specs is a nerd. You will want to lock him in your van and propose marriage.
But back to the story. Since the actual TAGLINE on the poster is “It’s not the house that’s haunted,” and in the trailer itself Lin Shaye’s character also says, “It’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s your son.” (GASP!) I don’t feel responsible for spoiling anything when I say that I really liked the idea of moving to a new house doing absolutely nothing to fix the problem. How many times have you watched a movie involving ghosts frightening a family to the point of insanity and thought to yourself, “Just MOVE somewhere else, you stupid assholes?” Well, this family did it and the mean, scary ghosts fucking FOLLOWED THEM. That sucks so hard! Especially once they get to the new house, the stuff is even creepier and they find out more about what’s really happening. Now, this is the part of the movie where audiences tend to divide. Some people think the core ideas of the plot are kind of silly and some people think they’re cool and interesting. I was a mixture. However, there’s some pretty neat imagery that goes along with the concept.
What I LIKED about the movie:
-          Leigh Whannell as Specs (OBVIOUSLY.)
-          Effective scary ghost moments. Yeah yeah, a bunch of them rely on jump scares, but they’re done really well because the tension and suspense/dread leading up to those moments are pure torture.
-          *Some* of the scary, fairytale type imagery used in the last act of the movie, especially in the “dream house.” Though that whole sequence felt like it belonged in another movie.
-          One of the weirdest, WTF séance scenes you’ll probably ever see. For serious.
What I DIDN’T LIKE about the movie:
-          The last act did turn a bit too fairytale-ish for me and bordered on cheesy. Sometimes cheesy is good in horror, but only when the entire movie is that way. (Example: “Dead Alive,” which I haven’t reviewed yet.) The first half of “Insidious” REALLY gave me the creeps, and brief moments of the ending did as well, but the last half hour of so was hit or miss.  It also revealed a bit too much of the “monster,” so-to-speak, which in some cases can be a mistake and take some of the scariness away. I agree with several of my friends that stated the second half of the movie felt like an entirely different film altogether.
What I LIKED AND DIDN’T LIKE about the movie:
-          Okay, so there’s this one scene that flashes by quickly in the movie itself but also pops up on Google Image Search every single time you look for “Insidious.” It involves a black and red face that everyone and their HILARIOUS AND ORIGINAL brother says looks “exactly like Darth Maul,” which fans of this movie got sick of hearing a loooooong time ago. The first time you actually watch “Insidious,” though, nothing—let me emphasize that: NOTHING—can actually prepare you for the pure terror that is the five or six seconds of that goddamn fucking thing popping up behind Patrick Wilson’s head.  Check it: You’re already super creeped out by the scene that unfolds before it, (another example of how well James Wan builds dread and suspense to the point of making you super worried and uncomfortable), and before you’re able to even wrap your head around what’s happening, BOOM! Terrifying demonic face! Those fucking assholes.
This film, I think, kind of falls into the same category as The Ring. People either find it terrifying or they claim that they don’t. Whether you scare easily or not, I definitely think it’s worth at least one watch. You may be disappointed in the last half hour or so, though the silly/fairytale type elements still have some very creepy and cool imagery mixed in and the entire thing leads up to an unnerving ending that you may not expect.
Also, did I mention screenwriter Leigh Whannell is in it? Love of my life, guys.

Forgot to mention earlier that this one gets 4 out of 5 pints of blood!


Horror Review: "The Hole" (2001, Straight-to-DVD Release)

Once you finish your childish fit of laughing over the title, (it took ME a little while), this movie might be worth a watch in your Netflix Instant Queue. It was apparently SUPPOSED to be a nationwide theatrical release, but didn’t make it. I’m not sure why; it isn’t terrible. It’s just…weird.
Thora Birch is definitely a plus. She brings a lot to the role of Liz, the main character you feel sorry for and identify with at first, but then waver on when you realize you don’t know if you can actually trust her. The movie takes place at a private school in the UK and is sort of split into two halves, as you’re told two different versions of what has transpired. One by Liz, who survived a terrible ordeal, and another by her supposed best friend Martyn, who may or not be partially responsible for said ordeal.
The basic, not-TOO-spoilery rundown of the barebones plot is this: Liz, (Thora Birch), is an unpopular girl in a school ruled by popular girls. (Sound familiar?) She has somehow stumbled upon this super weird, abandoned underground bomb shelter type thing near the campus that appears to lock from the outside but is huge enough for a large group of people to comfortably inhabit, and she is desperate to spend time with this campus superstar guy named Mike who she’s convinced she’s in love with. SO, Liz coerces Mike, his other hotshot guy friend Geoff, and queen bitch popular girl Frankie (played by Kiera Knightley in what was apparently her first movie role), into ditching a class trip and instead spending a night LOCKED inside this dusty, cold underground hole type thing drinking and debauching. And yeah, since it locks from the OUTSIDE, Martyn is supposed to come let them out the next morning. (Brilliant plan, right?)
Of course, it doesn’t go as Liz had hoped. Martyn doesn’t show up. The door won’t open. The interesting thing about the movie is, are there monsters in there with them? Nope. Ghosts? Nope. There’s just some fucked up shit that happens as a result of four people being trapped in a dark space together for days and days. And then, Liz is the only survivor, and the second half of the movie is a retelling of the same events but from Martyn’s perspective. Who is telling you the truth? It was this whole aspect of the movie that I found interesting.
The downside: You DO have to wait until the last half hour or so of the movie to actually see the awful truth and experience the terrible fates of the characters. The first half of it is a bit slow. Also, even though stranger things have happened, the premise itself is a tiny bit difficult to believe. There’s scarcely a less appealing place to hang out and party than the dirty prison of a bomb shelter these kids choose. They go into it with the belief that the thing locks from the outside, and they’re okay with it. (Really?) Also, once you find out one of the main character’s TRUE motive’s his/her choices come across as blatantly idiotic. Even if you find yourself siding with this character, you may end up saying out loud, “You DO realize that if you had done ________ you could have avoided _________, right?” Or maybe I only participate so actively because I watch these movies alone, and I criticize people very harshly sometimes.
However, as I mentioned earlier, Thora Birch does do a great job with Liz, who’s pretty complex right up to the end. You’re unsure about her the entire time, and she does a great bit of acting with a very unhinged monologue once the shit starts to hit the fan. This movie has some pretty good “What the fuck are these crazy people doing?” moments, and I liked that they actually WERE done by people rather than spirits or vampires or the usual horror fodder. That sort of thing is difficult to pull off. Also, the actor who plays Mike, the love interest, looks like he could have played a young Superman had “Smallville” been cast differently. Very blue eyes, ladies! BE WARNED, though, there is a random shower scene midway through the movie with some full frontal gratuitous peen. (And no, it’s not Mike’s.)
I give this movie Three out of Five pints of blood, for the originality of the concept and the level of twisted achieved by both the ending and the a certain character’s true motives. Worth a watch if you’re bored and you have Netflix.


Movie Review: "Grave Encounters"

Watching this movie was kind of weird for me, because I had a sort of biased opinion towards the concept. Only because one of my closest friends from my teen years and beyond is now a regular cast member on “Ghost Hunters” on the Sci-Fi Network. (I refuse to spell it that weird new way they’re doing it these days.) I’m not entirely sure what the filmmakers’ motives were, here, as I’m writing the review simply as a horror movie FAN who watched a movie. (I didn’t do thorough research into behind the scenes stuff or read interviews with the director, etc. This is just my opinion after seeing it.) So I have to wonder if the concept for “Grave Encounters” was born at least partially out of a strong dislike for shows such as “Ghost Hunters,” OR if it was a matter of sticking to a story that took advantage of one location and a small budget that was perfect for the “found footage” genre of indie horror. Perhaps maybe even a combination of the two.

I only wonder because the movie starts out with the characters clearly acknowledging themselves as phony, having found no evidence of anything supernatural so far on their fake television series of the same name as the film. The main character, Lance Preston, immediately comes across as a douchebag who has absolutely no interest in the paranormal so much as he simply loves the spotlight, and he has no qualms with asking “eyewitnesses” to make up fake stories about the asylum his team is about to investigate. My initial reaction to him was, are we as viewers supposed to dislike him so that when awful things inevitably happen to him, we’ll not only be okay with it but maybe even celebrate a bit? On the other hand, I admittedly might have found him more obnoxious because of what I know about investigative teams on these shows. Like them or not, they actually do NOT fake anything that they report or set out to create fake experiences for the sake of exciting television. Anyways, back to the movie.  

The likable factor was a different case with the other two lead characters, Sasha and Matt. As the three take a walking tour of the asylum in the daylight and are told about the things that happened there and the paranormal sightings that have supposedly occurred, Sasha comes across as a sympathetic human being and Matt is more of a goofball than anything else. They do, unfortunately, bring along a 100 % phony balones psychic medium named Houston Grey, and he’s pretty annoying throughout the entire movie. Just an FYI.

The action is a bit slow at first. A lot of it is the crew setting up for their shoot and establishing that, although the rundown asylum is definitely creepy and has a dark past, they don’t REALLY expect anything to happen. But they ready their equipment anyway.  Static cameras on each floor, etc. The three investigators, the medium, and another team member are locked inside the building with no way out until someone comes to unlock the doors in the early morning hours. I will say that for a while, I was NOT impressed with this movie at all. I’m trying to keep plot specifics out of the picture for the most part in this review, but I’ll go ahead and let you know that the first “scary” thing that happens to them as a sign of activity is a door slamming. I thought, “If the rest of the movie is going to be this sort of thing, I’m going to be pretty bored.” After all, this came out in 2011, post “Paranormal Activity.” You’ve got to approach this type of thing with either more extreme scares OR a different and more creative approach. Right?

Well, “Grave Encounters” luckily takes a turn in the latter direction and puts a very interesting spin on things. It doesn’t just stick with the idea of the building being haunted. It also plays heavily on the psychological affects that the surroundings begin to have on the crew, and they start to question their OWN sanity rather than simply look for spirits. It definitely adds to the creepiness factor and gives you some things that you don’t necessarily expect. I liked some of the creative choices they made.

The special effects are a mixed bag. Early on in the film, there are some makeup effects on patients in “old footage” that look pretty fake and rushed. Later on, some ghost effects do look creepy but also seem a bit too obviously CGI’d if you look closely. HOWEVER, very late into the film there is a surprising and bizarre scene that definitely made the hairs on my arms stand up a little bit, and looked VERY unnerving. It was a cool idea and they executed it nicely.

I actually did end up feeling bad for most of the characters. (The main three, primarily. Even the douchebag, Lance. Though not QUITE so much for him as I did for Sasha and Matt.)

Overall, I don’t think this film really got to me that much until the end. There is a scene in particular in which a character resorts to something pretty shocking and repulsive in an attempt to survive that I was NOT expecting, and the visual really stuck with me. The final scenes proceeded from there into unnerving territory that, while a bit hokey and gimmicky, still managed to disturb me just a tad given the subject matter. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say there are certain aspects of mental illness that have always frightened me because they actually have happened.

If you enjoy the shaky cam, “found footage” genre and the “Paranormal Activity” movies but would like something with a slightly different spin, this one might be worth a watch. I don’t think it’s going to blow you away, but there are some good moments in there. I rate it Three and a Half out of Five Pints of Blood.