I admit that The Vicious Brothers don’t exactly tap in to a part of the found footage genre that hasn’t been done before. Even before found footage became a popular filming format, the premise of con men looking for something supernatural that get more than they bargained for has been done. In fact one of the best “Tales from the Crypt” episodes tapped this premise. That said, while I did recognize the proceedings, “Grave Encounters” is still a lot of fun, if only for the haunted house spooks and bleak ending that ensue. One of the more amusing pop culture devices has been the satire of ghost hunting shows, and “Grave Encounters” brings it in spades.
The Vicious Brothers also pull off the format of found footage well, building on the tropes of the sub-genre with a prologue from a producer of the ghost hunters show “Grave Encounters.” We meet Lance Preston, a gifted ghost hunter whose show is on the verge of becoming a ratings hit. On the filming of his sixth episode, Lance and his group investigate the activity of an abandoned insane asylum where suspected activity has occurred. One of the more amusing aspects of the film is how the narrative begins on a light, slightly tongue in cheek note, with the behind the scenes revelation of Lance being more a performer and complete blowhard than ghost hunter. Even one of his psychic partners is just an aspiring actor when the cameras shut off. In one of the more humorous moments, Lance pays a Mexican gardener to insist he’s seen ghostly activity within the asylum.
As events progress, though, “Grave Encounters” becomes ever more ominous and incredibly gory, especially when Lance antagonizes the spirits of the asylum and gets exactly what he wanted. The Vicious Brothers are talented at building tension and unfolding the terror with subtle movement of scenery, all the while transforming the asylum in to a horrific foe the ghost hunters soon have to battle. What works about “Grave Encounters” is that not only are the ghosts the terrors, but the asylum itself which seems to have a pulse the moment they enter its confines. Soon not only are Lance and his cohorts trying to outrun the demons, but they’re also trying to outrun the asylum. “Grave Encounters” really isn’t about good and evil as it is hucksters walking in to evil and being outmatched in every conceivable corner until it’s just them waiting to either be consumed or murdered by the malevolent forces in every corner. While I think the climax goes on way too long, “Grave Encounters” stills ends as an uneasy and very entertaining ghost picture.