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Mike Mendez really surprised me with this one back in 2007. I saw the trailer about a year prior to watching the film, and it somehow didn't look all that promising to me. But the movie itself actually turned out pretty damn good. Up until then, I wasn't exactly convinced if Mendez would be able to come up with a more serious horror-effort (without the goofy, violent splatter-nonsense imprinted on his previous film, "The Convent"). Let alone one that would actually work this well... Decent story, decent acting, decent effects, decent scares for a film this modestly sized. And even a "Poltergeist"-like climax (sort of, and pretty over-the-top too). I see no reason to ignore this fun clump of scary horror. Entertaining stuff for a dark & stormy night.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a horror buff and have seen quite a few horror movies. I really liked this movie. I gave this movie high ranks for the really well done makeup and the interesting characterizations, but mainly for the intense feel to the plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. The first third of the movie is a bit of a bump-in-the-night portion, that elegantly sets up the latter two-thirds of the movie, as the action builds and the three friends attempt to survive the haunting. The creature affects were some of the most horrifying that I have ever seen (it is the sort of work that gives one nightmares).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"O Fool, O Lout, O Fortunate one The Dead now mocked, their time has
come. Heed these words for souls do roam, And though be dead follow you
home. It's rage will swell as nights grow bright, Despair and fear,
this fatal plight. From moon to moon, you'll have this guest, To seal
thy fate and lay you to rest."
Three college pals mourning a recent chum's passing, dance around graves reciting a poem left at his grave-site while heavily drunk to champagne. What they do not realize is that each individual grave danced upon while reciting that poem unleashes their vengeful, evil spirit. The poem declares what they can do to those who free them and this flick shows it as Harris(Dominic Purcell, the star of the hit Fox series, PRISON BREAK), Kira(the lovely Josie Maran), Sid(Marcus Thomas)are haunted as the spirits grow stronger from day to day. The three(actually four because Harris' beautiful, tenderhearted wife Allison, played effectively by Clare Kramer, is haunted as well)enlist the aid of parapsychologist Vincent(Tchéky Karyo, a welcome veteran presence in the cast)and his assistant Culpepper(Megahn Perry)to find the clues about who each ghost is terrorizing them and how to properly outwit them before death becomes the only other alternative. Kira, found wounded and bloodied by Harris and Allison, has already found out all too well what her ghost can do..she awaits in a hospital trying to recuperate, but can not when even there she is attacked while a nurse is thrown across the room for just being around her. Harris and Sid show Vincent what grave each danced upon and through some heavy research each dead person is identified. Harris danced on the grave of a school teacher who killed her lover and his wife with an ax which might explain why Allison is being haunted as well. Kira's grave holds what appeared to be a church-going judge, but instead he was, behind closed doors, a sadomasochistic torturer with a dead body in his basement. Sid's grave was of a little boy who loved playing with fire..he wasn't an innocent, however as the boy burned his entire family alive with the fire consuming him, also.
So the rest of the flick shows how Harris, his wife Allison, Kira, and Sid try to survive the onslaught of supernatural attacks that come their way. It is found through documentation from a past case where one survived their encounter with such a resurrected evil ghost through re-burying the bones of the one whose grave was danced upon. You see, the gravedancer has one month to outlast the ghost he brought back, and through the reburial of bones will halt the curse. But, for some peculiar reason(..found out tragically later), the new burial of the bagged bones of each body doesn't work with each person still receiving attacks by the spirits. It will all come to a head when they hole up at Vincent and Culpepper's massive mansion compound, set up to capture supernatural phenomena. This very professionally made ghost tale, competently directed by Mike Mendez, works more in the vein of THE HAUNTING. It shows spooky goings-on and saves the real grisly violence for the climax in the mansion at the end. The cast is decent. The cinematography is top-notch. Rather derivative with a whiff of deja vu, but works surprisingly well despite all that. Builds and builds until the special effects-laden showdown when the characters try their best to escape the mansion which is sealed off by a steel gate forced into the compound by the powerful spirits who can also cause the chosen victim to hallucinate(..not to mention, they are stronger than those they haunt often tossing even the beefy Purcell across the room as if he was light as a feather).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the second HORRORFEST film I saw, this time during the 'Encore
Nights', (the other was UNREST). I already knew what to expect from
having seen the previews on the website, so in spite of the presence of
one of my favorite B-movie actors, Tcheky Karyo, and the fact that I am
a rabid PRISON BREAK fan, (so you know when Dominic Purcell popped up,
I was already breaking out the credit card at MovieTickets.com), I
didn't go in with extremely high expectations. I expected to see
something probably at about the "Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie" level.
However, I was surprised that THE GRAVEDANCERS does climb a few notches
above that, thanks to some nifty special effects, better than your
average low-budget horror indie.
The story reaches back into the past to dig up a few good scares, culling from such classics as 13 GHOSTS and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, then going a bit further with scenes that are very similar to parts of THE ENTITY, THE CHANGELING, THE EXORCIST and the EVIL DEAD movies. There's even a nod or two here to Italian horror by directors like Argento and Fulci, only with the gore factor toned WAY down.
Three college friends: Harris McKay (Purcell), Sid Vance (Marcus Thomas) and Harris's old flame, Kira (Josie Maran) have all gathered for the funeral of a fourth buddy from the 'old days'. Sid urges the group to return to the cemetery after the funeral to give their compadre a more informal farewell. When Sid finds a mysterious card on their friend's grave, he reads the poem inside aloud, something which exhorts them to celebrate their friend's life - not by mourning, but by dancing - which they do after way too much cheap booze...on some surrounding graves.
Two weeks afterward, the crap hits the fan. Harris's wife, Allison (Clare Kramer) starts seeing things and hearing strange noises in their house. The sightings and the things going 'bump' in the night (AND in the daytime!) start to intensify, and it's then that Harris and Allison discover that they're not alone...Weird things are happening with Kira and Sid, too, and Kira suffers the worst of it (you'll have to see how - it's one of the movie's creepier scenes.)
Two parapsychologists come to the group's aid from the local university: Vincent (Karyo) and his assistant, Culpepper (Meghan Perry). But when they finally diagnose the hauntings, the news isn't good. The card Sid found was a reworked version of a gravedancing curse that really pisses off the spirits of those whose graves were desecrated, and within a month's time, the culprits will be "laid to their rest" by the avenging spirits. The remainder of THE GRAVEDANCERS chronicles how the group attempts to break the curse before it's too late for all of them.
I am willing to give any low-budget movie credit for at least trying to entertain, and this one really does go for it. Brad Keene and Chris Skinner's script is hardly the most original tale in the world, but it does take elements of horror, usually done as really bad clichés, and tries to put a brand new spin on them. I certainly find that commendable, at a time when flayed skin and shredded body parts are what's passing for plotting in most horror films these days.
Mike Mendez certainly does know his scary movies, because I could see some of the more "obvious" scares coming from a mile off. But that's just me. People who don't usually patronize this genre will probably have a lot of frightful fun. There are a couple of 'jumps' here and there that people will call cheap scares, but is n't that what horror movies used to be about? Suspense, atmosphere and a couple of freak-out scenes that might make you wet yourself a little?
Also: the mix of digital and practical effects for the ghosts were as unsettling as they needed to be. One scene where Harris is in bed with his "assigned" evil spirit is very effective. And the major scene in the third act where everything goes to hell is as well-done as I hoped it would be, though the digital effects here were probably a little too much.
Acting-wise, Purcell looks as sturdy and square-jawed as the horror hero should be, and the rest of the cast is about 'okay'. The standouts, though, are Kramer as Allison, who looks appropriately terrified, and Tcheky Karyo, who has precision scene-stealing down to a science.
I had to laugh at some comments about "Scooby-Doo" here, because I couldn't help but think about Meghan Perry's uncanny resemblance to Velma. Not to mention Sid-as-'Shaggy' and Harris as...okay, okay, I won't go there.
So THE GRAVEDANCERS isn't the movie that fits the HORRORFEST over-hype, either, but when it's available for DVD rental, or if it pops up on the Sci-Fi Channel on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I think I'd give it another whirl. Beats watching people rip out their own clavicles in SAW 3...
I just watched this movie and had to write this because of some other
comments that were posted here; someone even called this movie "best
horror flick recently" or something like that...
I couldn't agree less! This movie is just stupid, not scary, filled with plot holes in the already cliché-seen it a hundred times-wannabe-horror plot. Acting, continuity, gags, thrill effects - nothing worked out in this movie. May it be that it is a matter of taste whether you like or dislike this movie, but i read an awful lot of comments here about this movie that i think really treated it way to good.
You can say as positive aspects that considering the obviously low budget of the movie the cinematography and some visual effects are quite OK, but this couldn't save the rest for me...I can just say; you are not missing anything not watching this flick!
Saw the premiere at Tribeca. Was really hoping to love it. Forgave the first onslaught of horror clichés, writing them off as elements of horror movie tradition, but as they wore endlessly on, so did my patience. The director (Mike Mendez) should be praised for doing what he could with an abominable script, mediocre actors, and laughable makeup & effects. The atmosphere was genuinely creepy and the photography very good. However, Mendez overused the clichéd "Creepy music building to a benign startle" and "Eerie silence punctuated by loud startling noise" ad nauseum. Get a new gimmick. Overall, I would be excited to see what Mendez would do with a better script and cast, a larger budget, and the confidence to rely on atmosphere and story rather than cheap scares.
Mike Mendez directs this supernatural horror that manages to be a great
mix of the darkly humorous with the deadly serious and the clichéd with
The story is a pretty simple one; three friends (Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran and Marcus Thomas) let their hair down after the funeral of another friend of theirs. The night ends with them dancing on some graves and making themselves the focus of attention for some very angry spirits. Some mildly spooky behaviour soon escalates and the trio find out that they only have a limited timeframe in which to fix things before they are dragged off by the angry spirits. Can a couple of paranormal investigators (played by Tchéky Karyo and Megahn Perry) help? Is there anything that can undo the damage that has been done?
Providing a great mix of low-key spookiness with some nice jump scares and creepy imagery, The Gravedancers is one of the better "little" horror movies you could treat yourself to watching. The acting is all okay, if nothing special, and the effects are very well done, for the most part. There are a few twists and turns here and there but, by and large, this is a straightforward thrill-ride. Yes, there are moments when it comes very close to being impossible to swallow but it just, somehow, manages to keep you onside and involved with the plight of the characters so that you're too busy wanting to see someone get saved than wondering just how far-fetched it's all getting.
I'd like to see more from Mike Mendez. On the basis of this movie, he knows how the genre works and makes the most out of the little moments of unease in between the big scares. Which is a major asset for anyone making horror, in my book.
See this if you like: Flatliners, Night Of The Demon, Drag Me To Hell.
...till I'm sure that you're dead!(B.Dylan) Profanations have become
frequent nowadays and it is a burning subject which deserved a
responsible writer and a reliable director.
The movie fails twice: mediocre story,poor acting,awful directing relying on horrible (and non-scary) special effects.The movie hits rock bottom when they hire ghost busters (from a famous university of course),one of them is the unfortunate Tcheky Karyo in what is perhaps the worst part of his career;he is abetted by a bubble head assistant (collaborator,she says)."The night of the living dead" has still no contenders in this field.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mike Mendez has the talent to direct a really great horror film. However, Gravedancers is not it. Gravedancers is not a bad flick. Actually, it's one of the better films from the first After Dark Horrorfest. But it's just silly enough to keep it from reaching the "classic" echelon. The plot follows a group of old college friends who gather to attend a funeral for one of their own. They drink a little alcohol to celebrate their fallen compadre and pretty soon are dancing on graves; hence the title. The ghosts of said graves aren't particularly impressed with their dance skills and decide to haunt them and make their lives a living hell until the next full moon. It sounds a little wacky, no? It is, and it hurts the film. It straddles the line between cheesy and terrifying a little too much often tipping the scales into the cheesy territory. But when's it's terrifying, MAN! Mendez packs a genuine thrill into the scares. There are a couple of scenes that rivaled Exorcist III on the jump scale. For that alone I have to recommend you give this a look. Just remember I warned you about the goofy parts and you will probably enjoy Gravedancers. For the next, drop the comedy Mendez.
Wow! I get to see Tchéky Karyo (The Patriot) two days in a row. I just
watched him with Nick Nolte in The Good Thief, and now here he is as a
ghost hunter (yeah, right) with a beautiful assistant Megahn Perry.
But, they come in later.
First, there is the grave dancing - and grave pissing. I am sure everyone has at least thought about pissing or dancing on someone's grave. Well, you might want to rethink that after seeing this film, especially if you are the type that watches "Ghost Hunters" on TV. Hee Hee.
After doing the drunken deeds, our heroes: Dominic Purcell (Primeval, Equilibrium), Josie Maran (Van Helsing) and Marcus Thomas (Edmond), are getting their reward - crazed spirits after them.
This spooky film has it all: creaky sound, apparitions, super special effects, blood and gore, and perversion in what i would call a traditional horror film. There is enough to keep your interest throughout, and certainly enough to keep you jumping out of your seat.
And, hey, I wonder who did the casting here as I see a couple of more people from The Patriot?
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