A decent head rush, as ghost stories go

Paranormal investigators look for trouble — and find it


92 minutes.

Written & Directed by The Vicious Brothers

Thurs., Apr. 28, 12pm, at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea (260 W. 23rd St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves). Later this year, the film will be released theatrically.

For tickets ($8 matinees), purchase at the Box Office or call 646-502-5296 or visit www.tribecafilm.com.


This film, by the Canada-based Vicious Brothers, is a contribution to what is now a well-established genre: the “War of the Worlds”-style video hoax. The previous high water marks of the genre (for better or worse) are “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), “Cloverfield” (2008) and “Paranormal Activity” (2010). Purporting to be raw footage from a crew shooting an episode of a “Ghost Hunters”-style TV series, “Grave Encounters” locks us into an abandoned insane asylum with the main characters and reports the haunting they witness. A cynical bunch, they’re as shocked as we are when real supernatural things start to happen.

It plays out effectively at first — but the film rapidly lost me. Before we know it, the characters are not only trapped in the insane asylum, but the building seems to be able to expand its unlit corridors to infinity — and though the ordeal spools out over several days, it never stops being night outside. The characters are clearly all in hell, making their predicament hopeless and removing any suspense or dramatic tension from the story. It’s like a ride through the Spook House, where you’re just waiting for the next thing to pop out. There really is no story here. We don’t know why, for example, the demons are tormenting these particular characters (others have been in the same building and only had minor encounters). In the end, we’re left with a single remaining character, who uncovers the root of all this chaos — signs of some Satanic ritual in the basement (a candle, a skull, a book with Runic writings). Clearly, some fool has called up these devils. But the conceit struck me as merely silly, and that is why I don’t mind spoiling it for you. It has, after all, been done to death.

This may sound like a lot of quibbles, but I won’t steer you wrong. If you buy a ticket, you won’t be shortchanged on thrills. Even if it’s not much of a story (or even a movie), “Grave Encounters” is an effective amusement park ride and hence a decent head rush.

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