When scanning the Netflix instant selection, it’s always a gamble as to A) What you’re going to find on there, and B) How shitty your selected movie is going to be. Grave Encounters was always one I flew by because, well, it looked rather budget. The “found footage” sub-genre is trendy right now given the success of the Paranormal Activity series, so I always exercise some caution on “found footage” films that I’ve never heard of. But I got a recommendation, I gave it a shot, and was pleasantly surprised!
The story follows a camera crew of one of those Travel Channel-type Horror shows where ghost experts and film crews survey haunted areas, claim to hear noises that you don’t really hear, and talk about all of the murderous nasties that used to live and eventually died there. Lance Preston is the host of the fictitious “Grave Encounters” television show, and along with his crew, he investigates a haunted psychiatric hospital in search of paranormal activity in what eventually becomes their last episode ever (we’re told this at the start – not a spoiler).
The scary story behind the haunted hospital surrounds a doctor, Arthur Friedkin, who performed unethical experiments and lobotomies on patients before being overthrown and offed himself. We learn most of this story throughout the first 20-30 minutes – and it’s so terrible! The actors are mediocre at best, and they overact in order to parlay their on-camera personas and faux excitement to their audience. When it’s time to wrap, someone disappears (of course) and the hellish haunts start showing their faces.
As with most found footage movies, there are plenty of make-you-jump scare tactics, and surprisingly, many of them work given the limited lighting and setting. The sounds were also pretty frightening, so make sure you turn this one up to 11. There’s a decent amount of blood and gore, and plenty of freaky happenings that will stick in your mind even post-viewing.
For some reason, ghost flicks like this really get under my skin. Maybe it’s because I believe in this stuff, or maybe it’s because paranormal movies always have a claustrophobic feel to them. Does Grave Encounters feel like a B-movie. Sure. But what lies ahead for this film crew is certainly more twisted and messed up than anything I’ve seen in a Paranormal Activity movie (though arguably, when taken as a series, the Paranormal flicks definitely have more of a story).
Though the found footage technique is a bit hackneyed, Grave Encounters delivered a few eye-rolls and some truly scary moments – just like a good scary movie should!