Shocking Saturday: Grave Encounters

The found-footage 2011 cult horror by The Vicious Brothers lives up to the hype, and offers much more than your typical hand-held camera film.

grave

Lance Preston is the host of his own paranormal investigation series, and for the sixth episode of the first series him and his crew decide to visit the Riverview Mental Asylum, which is said to have been the source of many ghostly happenings. The team decide to have themselves locked inside the asylum all night until 6am when the caretaker will come let them out. The persona that the team play out on camera is much different to their actual take on the situation, as they believe that they aren’t going to get anything on film. However as the night goes on the asylum seems to come to life, along with its deceased detainees; and the crews persona eventually becomes one…fear. With ghouls and demons chasing them at every corner, they have much more to worry about than just surviving until 6am.

The first thing that I noticed about Grave Encounters was that, even before any of the scares had started, I was enjoying the film. It is a great success when a film from this genre can achieve that, without even needing to use any of their effects. As the film went on it just got better and better, the plot kept you guessing as you tried to work out what was going on just like the characters in the film. Plus, even though we aren’t able to get too in touch with the cast, you still relate to them because they are quite comical in the way they do certain things before they enter the asylum; although you aren’t dying for them to make it out, you certainly do sympathise with them.

The effects and prolonged creepiness are definitely what steal the show here. It’s the not knowing when something is going to pop up when the camera pans around, and the jump-scares that don’t happen when expected but still scare you any way that keep the film going. The casts witty and friendly characteristics force you to put yourself in their positions; imagine stumbling around an abandoned haunted prison in the pitch black on your own; doesn’t sound like something I would want to be doing.

What Grave Encounters really does well is how it keeps you interested in the film, and it does that by swaying from the typical scares and plot of a found-footage horror film. Along with the expected jump-scares that don’t happen, the documentary style photos which were found after the events and the imaginative story, the movie also does something which we barely ever see in horror films these days; and that is keeping the majority of the cast alive for over half of the film. By doing this the audience are able to continue to get in touch with the entire cast, and not, for example, get annoyed by a single cast member who might be the only one left alive.

grave 1

Although at some points the acting is slightly wooden, the film gets away with it because of the way that it keeps you watching, all the way up to the end.

A sequel to Grave Encounters was made in 2012 called ‘Grave Encounters 2’, and is about a fan who is so obsessed with the film that he wants to make his own version in the same place. Unfortunately for him it turns out that the film is actually real. The sequel was rather good, however it was let down in the fact that it makes the story too unrealistic. I know it is obviously made up, but where the first film played on your imagination so much and gave you a feeling of claustrophobia, the second tries to achieve this as well but goes so over the top with it.

One of the best found-footage films I have seen in a long time, with some great effects and an atmosphere that will stop you from ever wanted to go explore an abandoned Mental Asylum.

Tag Line: They Were Searching For Proof…They Found It.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

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The Green Inferno New Trailer

Finally we have a short trailer for Eli Roth’s upcoming cannibal horror film ‘The Green Inferno’.

Eli Roth’s horror career has definitely has its ups and downs, with his magnificent ‘Hostel’ franchise and the poor ‘The Last Exorcism’ film. Now it seems about time for Mr. Roth to deliver another enjoyable splatter-fest; and that will hopefully be in the form of his upcoming cannibal film.

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Due to the anticipation that this movie is gaining, the release of a trailer should get fans even more excited. However I found that the recently released 1:13 long trailer failed to dazzle; although the scene that we were looking at seemed like a good one, that was all that was shown in the trailer. Just one scene, where we couldn’t actually view what was happening. The plot entails a group who crash-land and are kidnapped by the very tribes they were trying to protect; I just wish it would have shown some form of that story in the trailer because it sounds so good.

Saying that, it didn’t make me think any different about the film, so at least nothing was ruined. Stepping away from the bad, what I did enjoy was one part of the trailer, when a fact shows up on the screen about the tribes people in the film. Apparently they are an actual native tribe from Peru, who have never been filmed before. Luckily that little bit of info was at the of the trailer, so it concluded on a high note.

The Green Inferno is out 5th September (USA)/Not Yet Known (UK)

Shocking Saturday: V/H/S 2

The thrilling V/H/S anthology franchise returns with a sequel that surpasses its predecessor in quality and original ideas.

VHS2-Poster

Once again someone has been hired to break into a house that is littered with snowy television sets and stacks of VHS tapes; this time a private investigator and his girlfriend have been hired to find a missing college kid by his worried mother. As one of the two searches the house for clues, the other begins to watch the various tapes in a bid to find out what has happened. Unfortunately the tapes do not give any ideas, they just show stories of disturbing and violent footage shot by unknown people; each tape more terrifying than the last. Including footage of a haunting, a suicidal cult, zombies and an alien abduction. As the pair view more and more of the tapes it appears as though watching these may be what has caused the kid to disappear.

What jumps out at me about V/H/S 2 – as it did with the first one – are the original ideas that are just so gripping to watch. Each story is directed by a different person, meaning that each story has a different and fresh take on it; this helps to keep the audience watching in wonder at will come next. What has really been improved on from the original is the length of the video segments; whereas in the first it was five rather short stories that failed to explain their plots well, in the sequel it has been changed to four slightly longer stories that urge you to understand the subject matter more.

Every video tape is incredibly imaginative, the various directors (Adam Wingward, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener) have not just used a typical horror film narrative, they have added a different aspect to them. For example with the first segment ‘Phase 1: Clinical Trials’, in which a man is fitted with a new eye – that is also a camera –which makes him see dead people, it is not just another ‘The Eye’ film. In the short viewing I assure you that you will be more creeped out and shaken than throughout that entire Jessica Alba flick. Not only that, what the segment offers that is great is an amazing contrast between incredible state-of-the-art technology and simple practical make-up. The variation of these two things showed both ends of the horror time-line put together – the practical effects of the Hammer Horror classics, and the gadgets which are used in a large portion of today’s horror films.

Straight after experiencing the first segment it was obvious that this film was miles ahead of the original; I just hoped that it wouldn’t go downhill from there. It definitely didn’t as the second ‘A Ride In The Park’ took one of my favourite horror monsters – zombies – and span the idea on its head; as we are watching through the Go Pro camera of a recently joined member of the undead. Although the shortest of the videos, its compact size stopped the story, that we have seen many times before, from getting too monotonous.

The third segment ‘Safe Haven’ definitely steals the show, as it just had everything you could have asked for; a creepy vibe throughout, unlimited amounts of gore, an interesting plot and characters that you could get in touch with. The Indonesian based story follows a documentary crew who are filming at the location of a cult who believe they are heading for the gates of paradise, unfortunately the crew are there when they begin their journey…lets just say a lot of blood is spilt. This segment put V/H/S 2 at a much higher standard of horror.

The final tape ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ is pretty self-explanatory from its title, and while it did not leave the film on a bad note, it did have a disappointing low-level of creepiness; something which really is needed in alien themed films.

Although I did really enjoy the first V/H/S film, what really let it down were the video tape segments that never really seemed to go anywhere and were over too quickly; therefore character development was not seen often. Also the shakiness of the hand-held camera was too much at times, I understand that the film makers were trying to make it as realistic as possible but it gets to a point where realism goes out the window, and the audience just can’t make out a single thing on-screen. It is only after viewing V/H/S 2 and re-watching V/H/S that I realised how bad the quality of the first film was, thankfully this, and much more, has been improved upon in the second film.

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As I have said many times when reviewing found-footage, it has been done to death now and directors need something new to offer their viewers. V/H/S 2 definitely ticks that box by using new technology such as Go Pros and spy cams throughout the film, perhaps to relate more with a 21st century audience. Something else I look for is the effects that are used on camera, unlike where V/H/S seemed to use gore a lot just to fill spaces in where the plot was lacking – gore for the sake of gore – the sequel gets exactly the right amount. When the effects are used they are incredible and very believable, however they are not over used at any point where they’re not needed.

To sum up V/H/S 2 was a definite step above the first film, and for any fans of found-footage or anthology films I would recommend this. It is one of the most enjoyable horror films that I have seen in a while.

Tag Line: Who’s Tracking You?

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: 

The Birds Remake

Another day, another silver-screen classic gets a remake.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds is such an iconic movie for thriller and general film lovers alike. What an enjoyment it was to watch Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor and the people of Bodega Bay suddenly be attacked by flocks of birds. But it wasn’t just these attack scenes that made the film sensational, it Hitchcock’s classic touch of suspense and realism in the scenes that kept you gripped and watching the story – which was an adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier novel.

birds

As you have probably guessed by now, this incredible film is receiving the remake treatment; and it is not just in talks, the production is in full swing with Platinum Dunes. Naomi Watts has been said to be taking the lead role with Dutch director Dierderik Van Rooijin at the helm, and Transformers director Michael Bay is in the role of producer.

Although I do think Naomi Watts could bring a great portrayal to the role of Melanie Daniels, it is hard to imagine how Van Rooijen and Bay expect to create the same edge-of-your-seat feeling that the original delivered – Bay probably hasn’t been told yet that the plot includes no explosions, car crashes, drug busts or shoot-outs.

If the remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1998 is anything to go by, then the soon to be remake of The Birds will surely fail to dazzle.

Shocking Saturday: Megan Is Missing

Let’s return to the found-footage genre with the 2011 film ‘Megan Is Missing’. A film that aims to shock and repulse, which, at times, it does; however it falls short due to a lack of acting from the majority of the cast and by turning into more of a documentary which is trying to promote a message.

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As you can most likely guess, the film is about a girl named Megan who goes missing. However before all that happens we are introduced to Megan and her best friend Amy, who have been friends for years. Although Megan is a very popular girl and Amy is right at the other end of the popularity spectrum, they still hang out all the time. That includes going to parties full of under-age drinking, drugs and sex – most of those by Megan not Amy. Despite loads of people telling Megan that she is too good to be friends with Amy, she takes no notice of them because they believe they’re going to be friends forever. Then the shit hits the fan after Megan begins to chat to a boy named Josh online whose web-cam has supposedly broken; and being a not-knowing-any-better 14-year-old she agrees to meet up with him. What follows afterwards shows a best friend’s determination to uncover what has happened to her friend. However when Amy goes looking for answers, the truth is much worse than she could have ever imagined…and her nightmare doesn’t stop there.

When I heard about Megan Is Missing I was rather excited to see it – and I’m glad that I did – however what I thought really let the film down in parts was the shoddy acting; mostly by Megan (Rachel Quinn). Don’t get me wrong the portrayal of the distraught Amy (Amber Perkins) was terrific, and anyone who has seen the film will know why. But it felt like that you didn’t really connect with the Megan character, she does attempt to tell stories of her troubled past, but the scenes are over so quickly that it hasn’t given time to set in. Don’t get me wrong, what happens to her in the film will definitely send a few shivers down your spine, but in a way it could have happened to anyone and the viewer would have felt the same. The fact that she was, in a way, the main character, didn’t make much of a difference.

What was great about the film was the way the found-footage technique was used. In the same way – but used so much better – that Paranormal Activity 4 tried to make it appeal to today’s audience, Megan Is Missing used cameras on things such as mobile phones and web-cams; in a way that made the story so much more believable, especially with the film being focused around youths. By using these types of video feed the audience is able to perceive a more realistic take on the hand-held camera genre.

What Megan Is Missing came across as more than anything was not a shocking film, but rather a wake up call to parents who allow their young children to live this lifestyle; and the behaviour of the kids just made it frustrating to watch. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing like this is deserved or anyone’s fault – apart from the antagonist – but it was hard to find sympathy for one half of the main cast because the film just shows how bad youth is today. Drinking, doing drugs, having sex and talking to strangers on the internet at 14…how can you not think that something will go wrong? Plus the fact that most of the characters are spoilt little high school brats who need a good kick up the arse in telling them that their lifestyle is terrible made it even harder to watch.

I would definitely recommend Megan Is Missing to any found-footage and horror fans, but be wary when watching…most of the cast are just unbearable. It can’t be a good thing when the best part of a film is what most people would call the worst.

Tag Line: Megan And Amy Are Best Friends. They Share Secrets. They Chat With Guys Online. And In A Few Days They Will Never Be Seen Again.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆