It’s very rare for a horror movie to truly scare me. There’s been many that have made me uneasy, or even a genuine sense of dread, but not along the line of thinking as holy shit what’s going on, stop moving, don’t go down that hallway! I would say The Descent and Paranormal Activity have succeeded with that, and the most recent to really make me question what in the world was going on is Grave Encounters.
A reality show host and crew lock themselves in an abandoned psychiatric hospital to try to find any activity. The first few hours are uneventful as they move around, setting up cameras and checking out some weird feature explained by the caretaker.
Once evening comes, the caretaker is filmed leaving along with chaining the doors closed. The crew makes a big posturing stand on camera, but as soon as recording is finished they relax and assume it will be yet another uneventful stay at a supposedly haunted location. It isn’t before long while walking around that the crew starts to hear weird things, and then one of them disappears, starting to create panic for the rest.
Coming up to the climax of the film, more and more weird sounds happen, and even sightings start to manifest. No other members disappear, but the greatest things (to me) that really sets up the tension and feeling of dread is when they start to realize that time is not passing as it should, as well as the layout of the building isn’t following what is shown on the map.
Near the end of the film, panic is at full tilt, with the crew yelling and running around. A few more are attacked and killed, with the remaining starting to think they’re going out of their mind. The last scenes are a mixed bag for me, trying to put too much explanation into things that don’t really need it.
All of that being said, Grave Encounters is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a number of years, mainly because it relies more on atmosphere and dread rather than gore. I don’t plan to see the sequel, but I do hope to find more movies similar to this!