Please stop throwing dead animals at me!
If there is one type of movie that emerged and then subsequently died a very quick death over the last fifteen or so years it is the found footage movie. Most genres last decades before they become tiresome but that wasn’t the case with found footage movies.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, the list of found footage films could be placed onto a post-it not, but then along came a certain film by the name of “The Blair Witch Project” and after that the market was saturated with them. This isn’t to say that they weren’t good, with films such as [REC], Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead doing a reasonable job, but soon after that they soon took a turn as film-makers realised that it is a very cheap way of making films.
The popularity soon wained, almost to the point where every found footage film over the last few years has been very poorly received, and there are many reasons for this, not least of which that it is principally used in the horror genre and once you have seen one, you’ve seem most of them really. Whilst some films have tried new ideas, such as the VHS franchise and the surprisingly enjoyable “As Above, So Below”, which made it into my Top Ten Films of 2014, the majority are near enough identical to each other and that is why I wanted to watch this film.
I initially saw the trailer several months ago and it automatically reminded me of a film called “Grave Encounters” and the reason for that they appeared to have near identical plots, and that is literally the only reason I decided to watch it.
Harold (Carey) is given the chance to accompany his old friends on the filming of their popular TV show “S.P.I.T”, a show that goes into abandoned buildings in search of paranormal activity. Whilst catching up with Tim (Doherty), he is told that the show is 100% fake and all the jumps and scares are programmed by technical whizz, Bill (Henrikson).
For the latest episode the group are heading to an abandoned orphanage named Hollows Grove, and the research shows that it was rife with disease and murder when it was open, with an average of two children dying every day. Everything seems to be going as expected at first as they explore the home and they think that Bill has outdone himself by moving wheelchairs, balls and various other things whilst they are in the rooms, as well as he normal tricks.
As the evening goes on things start turning more sinister as Chad (Morrison) is shoved down a set of stairs, doors that were previously locked are suddenly open, lights turning themselves on and off and shadowy figures moving behind stained-glass doors. The group largely laugh things off until they find Bill has been tied up and his throat is slit by an unseen force. At this point they realise that this is now very serious and they must find a way out before it’s too late.
Why does that all sound familiar?
Well as I mentioned earlier, this looked near enough exactly like “Grave Encounters” and the reason it looked exactly like that film in the trailers is because it is exactly like that that film. The only minor difference being that it’s not set in a mental hospital, but rather an orphanage. There are so many elements that are stolen from Grave Encounters that it is a bit beyond a joke, and I’m not actually kidding, it is such a blatant rip off. If it was just one or two things then I wouldn’t mind, but major plot points, scares and even the basic premise are exactly the same.
Both films are set around a TV crew from a show investigating old buildings for paranormal activities, but both openly admit that the show is fake. Both TV crews are warned against going inside by the caretaker for the building and once inside, both TV crews set up an where they can store all equipment and a lighting rig. Both then go and explore the building, finding a window that someone was thrown out of in the past and one of the characters is thrown out of later in the film.
Both have a character that is slammed up and down by unseen forces like they’re fighting Ermac from the Mortal Kombat franchise and both find that when they go to leave the building, there is no longer any route out and all windows are now bordered up tight.
I could expand on that but it would cause too many spoilers but believe me, if you have seen “Grave Encounters” then you have seen this film. It’s about as close to a blatant rip off as I have seen in recent years. It doesn’t even rip off from “Grave Encounters” either, oh no, it rips off from various other horror films and there’s not really a single unique idea in the entire film. Another such example is that they think that the effects, bumps and exploding water pipes are all down to the special effects guy, only for them to later find him in a position where it couldn’t possibly have been him *cough*House on Haunted Hill*cough*.
The main problem with “Hollows Grove” is that the presenters are just absolutely awful at presentation. They deliver lines like Tony Blair used to do and yet it’s supposedly a very popular show. There’s no possible way that this would be a popular show because the delivery of the lines is just diabolically poor. Other than that though the way the TV set up is presented isn’t actually that unbeliveable as they are shown in a production meeting and actually have a good chemistry, which means that you do connect with the characters on a tiny basis as they are at least shown to have personalities and a relationship with each other.
Whilst the film has many issues, the biggest one for me is the pacing. The film seems to be going fairly nicely, slow building for a while….and a while longer…and a while longer….and all of a sudden they realise that they only have about 10/15 minutes left and they really have to have something happen, and all of a sudden everything turns from maybe 20mph to over 100mph and they try and fit in too much, too soon. The characters even show this as they are fine with the situation that they are in one minute, but then within seconds they see a ghost or two and all of a sudden they are fighting with each other and the characters start dying off at any exceptionally quick rate. The final ten to fifteen minutes don’t really give you a chance to breathe and you’re left thinking that they could have realistically eased up on the slow build and have things happen far sooner and quicker than they do.
So are there are main positive points that I can give to the film? I’m not going to lie, I am struggling to think of a positive that can’t be countered with a negative. For example, I like that a lot of the changes, such as objects moving, are subtle, but even though they are subtle, they are exceptionally predictable. The thing with horror movies, especially found footage films, is that they are incredibly predictable. For example, they spend a lot of time on the second floor of the building and there is a wheelchair in the corridor that keeps moving long before the characters notice, but the issue is that as an audience member, you notice and you predict it happening as well.
I can’t give the movie a positive review. Whilst I didn’t hate it, it has too many issues that are hard to ignore, with the main one being it’s carbon-copy nature to “Grave Encounters” and whilst I obviously don’t know if the director has seen that film, I’d be amazed if he hasn’t given that it shares far too many similarities to be a coincidence.
I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t a good film. Even though it’s only 80 minutes long and that does go along relatively quickly, it’s hard to enjoy it because of how predictable it is.
Don’t waste your time.