Grave Encounters – Found Footage Done Right! T Minus 10 Days!

There are two types of film that have been severely lacking in quality, especially recently.  Those types are “horror” & “found footage” movies.

They style originally made famous by the Blair Witch Project was an innovative twist on film-making and at the time it was a pretty original idea.  People, myself included, give the Blair With a snobbish stare when you measure it up against the icons of the horror genre.  Taking away the condescending attitude towards the film it would be impossible to not give credit where credit is due that they launch a new sub genre of film.

Found Footage is a blessing and curse at the same. It brings a new way of bringing stories to life and more important for the film makers because it allows to create with a very minimal budget.  All you really need for a found footage film is a handy cam and an average powered computer for editing.  I enjoy this in theory, but unfortunately this also means that every hack with a camera and a bad idea is able to make a full length movie these days. There are so many examples of this technique done wrong but it’s the Halloween season and I want to focus on the good.

This brings us to “Grave Encounters.”  I will channel my inner hipster here by saying that I found this movie when it was a brand new release and the trailer got me excited.  It’s a movie that was able to legitimately keep my attention and did a pretty above average job giving the creepy atmosphere and the heart-wrenching suspense intertwined with a few decent jump scares.

Grave Encounters is a reality TV show that was in production back in 2003.  It’s host Lance Preston and his team of ghost trackers would go into haunted locations to try to make contact with the paranormal.  For their 6th episode they selected an asylum.  They never did return from this shoot.  The movie is the raw footage they captured, only edited for time but not doctored in any other way.

It begins the first act by essentially making a parody of the ghost hunting reality shows that are actually airing these days, before descending into madness of well thought out scares and eerie  situations.  My only complaint is that there are times when they do go a little over the top but all in all it was a very well done found footage popcorn flick.

…. Last night after finishing my SlenderMan post I sat through the recently released, “Grave Encounters 2”  the meta-documentary-horror film.  This movie has giving me hope that the Grave Encounters idea has the potential to become a full-blown series with maybe even a third installment… wait a minute, maybe I should check to see if that’s a plan already or not?

*Pause for quick google search*

Okay yeah, as far as I could find there is no talks yet of a Grave Encounters 3, but Vicious Brothers I really hope you get on that.

Anyway, I digress.

Grave Encounters 2 opens with a montage of interview video reviewers talking about the original movie, ending with a review from this films umm.. I guess you could call him a protagonist but really I stretch that word because although the film does centralize around him he really is one of the most unlikely horror characters I’ve encountered (pardon the pun) in a long time.

Alex gets a video response to his review of Grave Encounters from a user named “Death Awaits.”  This is a throwback to the original movie because that is what is spray painted on the door as they enter the asylum.  This snowballs into a conspiracy that Grave Encounters really happened.  Becoming obsessed with this idea which leads him and his film school friends to embark on a journey to the actual asylum where the movie was filmed.

The sequel follows all the rules.. it’s bigger, more intense, and yet has facets of the original to tie it together.  It’s a treat to return to the bathtub room, or the room with the window that opens by itself, but then they do something new and turn it up a notch.  The plot gets a little more in-depth than one would expect from what was essentially a very good, stand-alone, popcorn flick back in 2009.

They tied a complicated, yet remarkably interesting story together here.  I dare not spoil anything but I do want to mention the ending.  The ending is something I am very proud of, since the Vicious Brothers managed to have a found footage film where there was actual thought put into the ending.  It was not a movie where all the characters just died off one by one and ended with the death of the last character.. the ending is essentially the reason I wanted to write about it and why it became my third post on my Halloween countdown.

There WILL be more time put into to discussing both of these films and it will be posted on so stay tuned for that.  In thea meantime, tomorrow I hope to have something more Halloween and less horror since there really is more to Halloween than just the horror genre that I hold dear.


The Fat Man Talks About Slenderman – T Minus 12 Days!

It’s very difficult for fans of the horror genre to really get excited when there is a new offering in theaters   There are very few filmmakers that seem to be able to do this right… actually you know, if everything that has come out recently is disappointing maybe that means as a horror fan my expectations may be just too high?  Could that be it?

Maybe all along the movies have been subject to unfair criticism because of just ridiculously high expectations.  Of course Freddy Krueger was a scary force of my childhood, I was a child. Maybe Orin Peli is actually as talented as Wes Craven, I’m just older now and hoping to feel the same tingly sensation I got as a child…

…. Maybe they’ve been doing it right all along…

*Dramatic Pause*

This was my attitude the day before I stumbled across Marble Hornets.  The day before I saw what creative storytelling with a new big-bad could do.  Marble Hornets came around to remind me that YES the genre can be done much better and deserve a lot more respect than it receives from big budget Hollywood companies.

Huh? What is Marble Hornets you ask?  You haven’t heard of it? I see, well then let’s fix that shall we?

You haven’t heard of Marble Hornets but you probably heard of this guy right?

That’s right ladies and gentlemen I’m talking about Mr. Slenderman himself.  A couple of years ago you might be excused for never hearing of this horrifying man but after the viral Marble Hornet productions on YouTube and more recently the free indie game “Slender” there is no reason for you to never have seen him.

Slenderman is the first of a new mythos of creature called “Fears.”  They are all incredibly creepy and have their own domain they control.  Slender’s domain is The Path of Black Leafs.  He is the fear of the unknown & strangers.

If you want more of an insight into the Fear’s themselves there has been a wiki compiled on them.  Check it out here 

So who exactly is Slender Man?  Where did he come from.  Well despite what you might read if you google him, this particular creature has only existed in recent years, 2009 to be precise.  Something Awful held a photoshop contest looking for a new monster.  The winning entry as a black and white photo that I’m sure most of you have seen by now of an unnaturally tall man in a suit with no distinguishable face, holding hands with children in a playground.

The image was creepy enough and I believe it was the winning entry.

That’s it, that is the humble beginnings to what may take my pic for being the most effective new horror image of our generation.  Of course that picture alone wasn’t enough to launch Slenderman to mainstream success.  THAT accreditation goes the minds behind the YouTube Channel Marble Hornets.

Marble Hornets is a strong contender for the most significant contribution to the horror genre put to film in the last decade, maybe two.  It’s strength was not in jump scares like too many directors use these days, the eerie feels are a lot more subtle.  This is clearly due to their lack of budget but I like to think that even more financial assets they would have kept the scares the same.

The real strength to Marble Hornets is immersion.  It creates a world and characters that you believe and begin to actually care about, but it also stretches beyond the film itself.  Incorporating an alternative youtube channel and even real-world twitter in its narrative.

If you are a fan of horror and want to just have a creepy old night out of it I highly recommend killing your lights and going to youtube and watching Marble Hornets.

The best narrative goes up to Entry #26.  This is where I stopped, and they actually stopped for about a year.  If you take those 26 entries and put them together you have an amazing, yet bone-chilling movie with a solid, enjoyable ending.  I cannot vouche for any of the entries beyond that, I heard they are getting quite tedious but since there was a year between 26 and 27, I’m guessing 26 is when they intended on ending it.

Sooo, go watch it.

Marble Hornets is the name of a college film that was being made by what I suppose could be one of our two protagonists for this story, Alex.  The plot takes place long after Alex quit production of his movie and “Jay” (the narrator/protagonist) of our tale saw how tragic it was for so much footage to be wasted and wants to see if he can edit what they already had shot.  Reluctantly Alex gave the tapes to Jay and disappeared instructing Jay to never speak of the tapes to him again.

As Jay reviews the tapes he begins to find some odd recordings and realizes that near the end Alex was filming himself 24/7 and that something sinister was after him.  The “entries” are the vehicle for our story, they are found-footage style clips that Jay supposedly came across while watching the tapes.  He decides to upload and air anything found odd.  Some are scenes from the actual movie with distortion, others actually feature the Slenderman himself.

The beauty of this is that even the entries that have no supernatural activity can still creep you out because you’re just waiting for something to happen.  That’s the overall plot.  Eventually things start happening to Jay that is narrated through text at the beginning and end of each entry.

It’s a very simple premise but played straight up and done so well that it works.  Marble Hornets is one of the very few things that actually gave me a creepy feeling after I watched it.  This is the true touch of good horror.  Any director can make viewers jump in their seats with loud noises or throwing stuff at the camera… Marble Hornets will have you looking in every dark recess of your room to ensure there is nothing there, and you will always be looking over your shoulder… since most of the time Slenderman is just seen standing still and observing.

The real treat to this Marble Hornets experience was that during the time of the original airing there was a twitter account for Marble Hornets and it had “Jay” updating and giving us little bits of information of things he was during throughout the week and what was happening to him.  To anyone experiencing this during its original run, they did everything possible other than put you literally in the movie to immerse you in the world around them.

It was bone-chilling, it was suspenseful and was probably the best example of “what you don’t see is what really creeps you out” that I’ve seen in a horror video in recent memory.  If you can find a method of immersing your viewer in the experience you’ve done your job.

Kudos Marble Hornets.  One day I will catch up and see if you were able to keep that up through the other two “seasons” of entries.

SlenderMan and Jigsaw(SAW franchise) are the only real two contributions I can think of from our generation to the world of horror.  I’m a little let down thus far and I’m convinced that there is some new up and coming ideas for the genre.  Of course I’ve been saying this for years though and so far we have two, I guess that’s not too bad.

Anyway, Slenderman has taken on a life of his own.  Recently he was put into the spotlight by the game that is free to play all you must do is download it.  It’s named “Slender” and is … wait give me a second to think… yep.. yeah I’m pretty sure…. okay I decided… Slender, if played alone and in the dark is THE creepiest game I’ve ever played.  Sorry Silent Hill 2.

You are dropped in a fenced off forest in the middle of the night armed only with a flashlight your goal is to collect 8 pages that are randomly dispersed over a number of locations in the forest.  The only real sight you have is limited to the flashlight, everything else is really too dark to make out.

Once you get the first page the music begins to grow eerie, and officially SlenderMan begins his hunt.  The more pages you get the fast he is at catching you.  Before you know it you’ll be turning around and find yourself actually moving your head left and right to see if you can catch a better look to make sure he isn’t stalking you around the corner.

You can run, but if you do it gets difficult to see as your flashlight is less stable, and running means Slenderman has a better idea of where you are.  You can turn off your light and get around more discreetly but then it is impossible to see where you’re going.

The sprite of Slender himself is kind funny looking if you just see the picture, but if you’re playing the game and you turn to see him I guarantee you’ll urinate yourself.  As soon as you see him the screen gets distorted and if you don’t get away you see his face up close and it says Game Over.

This is once again done with pure genius, it’s simple yet effective horror-story telling.  I think the character of Slenderman himself makes that easy to portray, he’s a very a methodical creature that loves to torture his victims to the point of insanity before coming in to snatch them.

If you have never heard of this guy, or heard of him but haven’t quite experienced his work.  Go now and watch the Marble Hornets YouTube channel at least up to entry 26, and THEN give the Slender game a try.  If you’re a horror fan you will NOT be left unsatisfied.

Sorry  about the delay in posting this ladies and gents, I had a little bit of a crisis that needed my attention today and I couldn’t get back to upload until now.  Next post will be up by midnight tomorrow NL Time.