Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fooling Around in a Haunted Insane Asylum, or Thoughts on Grave Encounters

Who’s finding all these found footage movies?  That’s always the first question I ask.  In terms of plot whoever finds the stack of videotapes serves to ground the audience in a certain sense of heightened reality; this happened, I have the tapes to prove it, and the story can proceed with the audience comfortable in the safety of watching events that have already occurred.  Most found footage movies throw a quick explanation on a black screen before their movie starts, but in Grave Encounters (2011), the filmmakers present a reality show producer with the proverbial stack of tapes.  This is the best of both worlds for an audience; you get all the annoying shaky cam of a found footage movie coupled with professional editing, thanks to this helpful “producer”.  
From writer and director Colin Minihan, who would go on to make It Stains the Sands Red (2017), Grave Encounters follows a ghost hunting crew as it explores the  abandoned Collinwood Psychiatric Hospital.  There’s a series of expositional interviews, much like the more subtle but just as effective Lake Mungo (2008) create that documentary feel, interspersed with footage from the TV show before the crew gets locked in for the night and the real fun begins.  One of the many tropes of the found footage genre is that no one gets out alive, the tapes serve as a silent witness, and this movie is no different.

Collinwood Psychiatric Hospital is actually Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam BC, which viewers may remember from The X-Files, Supernatural, Arrow, and Prison Break; basically any cool TV show that filmed in Vancouver used the set at one time or another.   There was a sequel, Grave Encounters 2 (2012), where another paranormal crew investigates the events of the first film, with similar results.

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