Rated: R for adult language, and graphic violence.
Genre: Horror Thriller Supernatural Drama Comedy
Directed By: Mike Mendez
Running Time: 1:36
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 4/03/07
Special Features:
Commentary by director Mike Mendez and composer Joe Bashara
"A Grave Undertaking" featurette
"Making the Ghosts" featurette
Deleted scenes with optional commentary
Original trailer with optional commentary
Storyboard galleries

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The folks like me that couldn’t go to the film festival of the “8 Films to Die For” are finally being able to watch what many horror fans were talking about. And that is why reviews for the film festival’s library are popping up all over websites and magazines. People are genuinely curious to see what the big deal was. If there was even a big deal to begin with, mind you. If the rest of the films are as great as “The Gravedancers” is, I’m psyched, I have to tell you. One of the appealing aspects of this horror entry is that the characters are as smart as the genre would allow. They go out the front door instead of upstairs, install security devices once mysterious break-ins begin, call police at the drop of a dime, and in one scene as our character Allison looks down at a bleeding body, she instantly calls for a doctor. I was surprised. I enjoyed “The Gravedancers,” I have to say. It’s hard to find great ghost movies these days, especially ones like these.

Sure, there are old factory movie devices, but hell, there are sight effects that are horrifying, and most of the sequences are dripping with pure terror. I even felt my heart racing at one moment. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not fibbing to hype this up. I was soaked in “The Gravedancers,” and I was entertained from the frantic beginning to horrifying end. Mendez is able to grab us with the hook opening and then immediately segues into a story about three friends mourning the death of their best friend.  

A night of mourning and digging up skeletons from closets leads to a party in the cemetery. After reading an odd inscription, the threesome party and get drunk waking up the next morning hung over. But as the nights wear on, they each discover a mysterious force is stalking them. Mendez is able to create a satisfactory ghost story that uses sounds and shadows to properly bring us into a state of pure imminent danger, then bringing the story into a much more realized perspective as two ghost hunters help the group identify what exactly is haunting them. And then the screaming starts. Mendez’ wonderful direction is perfectly paired with some solid performances that help each character develop their own traits that make them unlikable and sympathetic at the same time. And as the tension is increased minute after minute, the tension is amped with pure nihilistic moments. “The Gravedancers” morphs constantly from one story to another, and it’s a fitting product of pure talent.

One thing about “The Gravedancers,” is that it’s a ghost film without much of a story to it. Sure, there’s the general set-up, but beyond that, there’s little to nothing about it besides watching people being scared shitless. Characters walk into a house, there’s a bump, thump, and a creak, and we move onto to even more ghostly mayhem. Only in the second half does the movie finally pick up with plot progression, but we have to wait a good while for it. Meanwhile, Dominic Purcell is expected to drag most of the movie on, with a performance that’s awfully wooden. Aside from failing to convince me he was generally frightened about a demonic entity stalking him, he never really seemed tense, disturbed, or destroyed by the whole notion of a demon trying to seal his fate. When he’s supposed to be angry or tense, he just seems bored, and he really didn’t keep up with his responsibility as a principal character.

Its rare modern horror movies have me looking behind my back while watching. I have to give it to Mendez, “The Gravedancers” is a scary, well directed, and frantic gem, even with its flaws.



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