Grave Halloween (2013) (DVD)

gravehalloweenSee kids, that’s why whenever you want to honor someone’s memory, sometimes a symbolic ceremony works better than getting lost in woods haunted by demons. You don’t always have to do what dreams tell you to. Despite some flaws in the narrative though, “Grave Halloween” is a solid horror film. It’s a little bit of “Evil Dead,” and a little bit of “Blair Witch” thrown together for a pretty entertaining ersatz Asian horror picture. Albeit one that’s only given the Halloween tag because character Maiko has to commit the ceremony Segaki for her mother, which happens to fall on Halloween.

Deliriously cute Kaitlyn Leeb plays young Maiko, a college student haunted by dreams of her mother whose spirit is restless after she committed suicide in the Aokigahara Forest, a large mass of land infamous for suicides. Leeb doesn’t look Asian, but you just have to go with the flow. She and her friends travel to China and, I’m guessing to add the body count, Maiko agrees to film the journey to find her mother’s resting spot in the woods and perform her ceremony as a documentary. Thus her friends Amber, Terry, and camera man Kyle follow along to film every account. I was never quite sure of these characters went to China for school, or if they traveled to China from school. There’s mention of foreign exchange students, but I find it hard to believe these Americans have been to China for so long and can’t read basic warning signs in landmarks like Aokigahara Forest.

After her mother committed suicide, Maiko was adopted (I assume by American parents?) and still spends a lot of her time dwelling on the memory of someone she barely knows. When the group ventures out in to the woods, despite warning signs that include visions of demons, disembodied voices, and an ominous guide named Jin warning about curses and getting lost, they still get themselves in to a heaping helping of trouble. Of course the demons are comprised mainly of the ghosts of suicide victims, so imagery gets gruesome even if there’s absolutely no swearing in the film. I found “Grave Halloween” to be a solid bit of horror fodder that comprises a pretty good twist in the finale. It’s not at all what I assumed initially, but the pay off is memorable. I also enjoyed the wicked special effects both prosthetically and CGI wise, as they compliment the attempted atmosphere.

Despite the unknown cast, the performances are also very entertaining. Leeb pulls in a strong turn as Maiko, along with Cassi Thomson, Dejan Loyola, and Graham Wardle respectively. “Grave Halloween” ends as an above average horror mystery actually worth seeking out if you appreciate ghost stories, and Asian horror. The DVD has no features.