Tribeca Film Festival 2011
By Don Simpson | May 2, 2011
Directors: The Vicious Brothers
Writers: The Vicious Brothers
Starring: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Merwin Mondesir, Mackenzie Gray, Juan Riedinger
The last thing this world needs now is another found footage horror film; but, nonetheless, writers-directors The Vicious Brothers (Colin Vicious and Stuart Vicious) have thrown their hat into the ring with Grave Encounters.
The film starts as a reality television producer (Ben Wilkinson) tells us the story of the unaired footage of episode six from the ghost-hunting TV series Grave Encounters. The producer gets all choked up as he talks about the unearthed 76-hours of raw miniDV footage shot by the Grave Encounters crew. Thankfully, we do not have to watch all of the raw footage; someone has done us the courtesy of editing it down to a manageable, 85-minute or so “rough cut.”
And here we are, within the (presumably) raw footage, in front of Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. This is where we meet the host of Grave Encounters, Lance (Sean Rogerson), and his crew — Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko), T.C. (Merwin Mondesir) and Matt (Juan Riedinger). Before they enter the long-since abandoned hospital in search of the aptly named Ghost of the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital for an eight-hour lock down, Lance interviews the local town historian, Morgan Turner (Shawn Macdonald), and the hospital’s caretaker, Kenny (Bob Rathie), in order to provide us with some much needed background on the hospital, its doctors and its patients. A cheesy psychic medium, Houston (Mackenzie Gray), soon joins their fold; his presence, we are told, means we are in for some serious shit. Awesome!
Kenny the caretaker takes the Grave Encounters crew inside the hospital. After a brief tour, Kenny locks the front doors. Matt sets up 10 static cameras in various hot spots known for paranormal activity. We are informed that Matt is recording all of the footage on tape and it is also being backed up on his laptop (this is most likely how we are able to witness the footage we are currently watching). Lance, T.C., and Sasha all have their own hand-held miniDV camcorders (presumably this footage is being fed to Matt’s laptop as well); so we have a total of 13 vantage points to observe the resulting mayhem.
If there is one thing that The Vicious Brothers do right, it is covering all of their bases. Having 13 cameras recording simultaneously certainly allows for a lot of different perspectives making Grave Encounters quite cinematic. The Vicious Brothers also take their fair share of comedic jabs at the behind the scenes fabrication of reality television. Most importantly, they allow the narrative to spiral into a timeless maze of a surrealist nightmare — making anything possible, except for escape or rescue which are rendered impossible.
Grave Encounters pales in comparison to my favorite found footage horror film, Jimmy Tupper vs. the Goatman of Bowie; it is no scarier than Paranormal Activity or The Last Exorcism; and does not compare to the inventiveness of The Troll Hunter or Cloverfield. That said — much credit is due to Rogerson, Mondesir, Gryzko, Riedinger and Gray who all give very strong performances; they definitely make Grave Encounters worth watching.