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I was lucky enough to see "Gravedancers" at Another Hole in the Head
film festival in S.F., if you were not one of the lucky members of the
audience, keep your eyes peeled for the DVD you won't be disappointed.
For fans of director Mike Mendez, who's know for adding comedic elements to his films, "Gravedancers" is a slight departure from his previous work on films like "The Convent". This time Mendez goes the straight horror route and it works out magnificently. While there are moments of genuine levity, it never distracts from the film, as proved by the screams echoing from the audience at the Roxie last night. "Gravedancers" is a unique take on the rather stale "haunting" formula, and is full of self-aware characters in a well rounded script that doesn't send stupid people into stupid situations.
I was shocked at how great the film looked, if you held this film up next to any of those crappy bloated multiplex horror flicks starring some blonde ditz from a forgettable UPN/WB show, I think you'd have a hard time figuring out which cost more. The atmosphere is perfectly creepy and has many moments that will have you squirming in your seat. Great sound effects and prosthetics add to create some truly creepy ghosts, and probably the best use of a "floating ghost" since the original "House on Haunted Hill". It may have taken almost 50 years but at least somebody has made ghosts scary again. Three cheers for Mike Mendez.
The former friends Harris (Dominic Purcell), Kira (Josie Maran) and Sid
(Marcus Thomas) reunite for drinking after the funeral service of an
old friend that died in a car accident. When the bar closes, Sid
proposes to go to the Cresent View Cemetery to say farewell to his
friend and drink more. Once there, Sid finds a letter in a tombstone,
reads it and they dance on three graves. On the next days, weird things
happen in the house of Harris and his wife Allison (Clare Kramer), but
Allison believes it is Kira, who has a crush on Harris, stalking them.
They go to Kira's house and find her wounded in a completely destroyed
place. Later Sid calls them and they are introduced to the paranormal
investigators Vincent Cochet (Tcheky Kayro) and Frances (Megahn Perry),
who tell them that Sid read an ancient spell that cursed the trio and
brought back the ghosts of the graves from the damned sector of the
cemetery where they danced. He also discloses that Harris and Allison
are being haunted by an insane ax murderer pianist; Kira by a sadistic
rapist; and Sid by a pyromaniac. They have to break the curse or
survive for an entire cycle of the full moon when the curse would
finish, while the ghosts are getting stronger and stronger.
Yesterday I saw "The Gravedancers" on cable and I really liked this horror movie. The supernatural ghost story is original and scary, having right doses of humor and funny moments, and the acting is reasonable. This is the first time that I see the idea of bringing ghosts back from hell through the disrespect to the grave of the dead, and I found it great. This movie is highly recommended to fans of the genre. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Carta Para a Morte" ("Letter to the Death")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three friends are reunited after the death of a fellow Chum. After consuming plenty of liquor at a local pub Sid (Thomas) suggests they go to the graveyard to visit the grave of their buddy. Being drunk they others agree and once there Sid finds a poem on the grave that he reads aloud. The poem suggests dancing on the grave of the dead and the three inebriated friends due this. A curse is hatched and the angry spirits of the graves that were danced upon begin to make reality a living hell for our three friends. Some decent acting and some truly scary ghosts save this film from a rather ridiculous plot and storyline. The silly idea that grown adults would actually do this dance, drunk or not, is stretching things as far as you can. Still the movie makes up for it with some solid scares and a touch of atmosphere. The ghosts are downright creepy and have a nasty edge to them which provides 'The Gravedancers" with its scariest moments. If you can force yourself to go where the story wants to take you, this movie has some scares in it and some fun to be had.
A solid premise, some decent twists, OK visual effects, and a very sexy
female cast. On the flip side, there's the cheesy dialogue that
alternates between unfunny intentional "humour" and almost funny
The other downside is the same thing I can say about the vast majority of horror films these days: the damn lack of colours.
At some point about 10-15 years ago it became hip to make greenish-blueish movies devoid of reality-based colours. The look of most horror films nowadays is depressing, gloomy, unappealing, and unrealistic. Dark-blue, filth-green and pale-yellow seem to dominate; other colours are a no-no. This destroys the visual fun of watching movies. Compare the typical lively-coloured 70s or early 80s flick with almost any made this century, and the huge quality drop becomes even more apparent. Hopefully, just as cheesy 80s synth-pop went out of fashion eventually, perhaps film-makers will finally realize that they don't HAVE to apply new computer software gadgetry to EVERY damn movie they make. Just because a new technology is on offer doesn't mean it should become your only bread-and-butter, while ignoring all other options and avenues.
After a drunken wake, old pals Harris (Dominic Purcell), Sid (Marcus
Thomas) and Kira (Josie Maran) pay a night-time visit to the grave of a
recently deceased friend where they discover a mourner's card
advocating 'living for the moment' by dancing on the graves of the
dead. The trio decide to do just that, but of all of the plots in the
cemetery, they opt to cut the rug on the graves of three rather
particularly wicked souls, a child pyromaniac, an axe murderer, and a
sadomasochistic rapist, all of whom take serious offence at the
desecration of their final resting places.
The Gravedancers starts out in routine ghost-story fashion, with its scary supernatural occurrences taking the predictable form of creaking doors, strange noises, and the occasional, briefly-glimpsed spectral apparition; 'Ho-hum', I thought to myself, 'here we go again'. But as the film developed, it took a delightfully unexpected turn, taking an approach that I can only describe as 'Scooby Doo' for adults, with its well realised spooks and the introduction of a pair of 'ghostbusters' (Tchéky Karyo as paranormal investigator Vincent, and Megahn Perry as his sexy Velma-alike colleague Frances).
From here-on in, the film is loads of fun, with a hugely entertaining scene in the cemetery where the friends attempt to exhume the ghosts' corpses (during which Kira is trapped inside a coffin and slowly dragged into the ground), a really creepy bit where the friends are drawn into the killers' virtual worlds (the rapists lair being particularly spooky), and an exciting showdown against the spirits in an old mansion. Director Mike Mendez unwisely resorts to a glut of CGI effects for his film's OTT finale, an unnecessary move that ends matters on something of a bum note, but even so, I reckon the film is still well worth a rating of 8/10.
This movie is pretty inventive, and it takes its time setting up the
scenario. Naturally that's important because if a film features
characters disrespecting the dead and dancing on top of graves, it
takes some effort getting the audience to invest in these people.
Therefore they get significant character focus though admittedly the lead couple receive the most focus. Kira soon gets found in terrible condition by the leads and therefore she isn't seen much under normal conditions. Actually their personalities don't stand out much although they are pretty likable characters, particularly Vincent.
The ghosts stand out from many recent ghost-related films, they have strangely odd eyes, demented grins and sometimes their limbs bent oddly (that might only have been one in particular, I'm not sure). Their attacks are based on their own crimes in their lives, giving them individuality.
"The Gravedancers" is a very story-dependent horror film, and therefore there isn't much gore, for those interested mainly in violence. There are several attacks but because the ghosts usually intend to torment their victims instead of immediately killing them, the (onscreen) violence is quite tame compared to films focused primarily on a high body count.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The plot is that a group of college friends attend the funeral of a
classmate, and at a drunken party at his grave, find a card with an
incantation, which extols them to dance on the graves of others. And of
course, they do so on the graves of three killers, because, hey, what
fun would it be if they were haunted by dead librarians or something.
Seriously, more plot convenience than a 7-11.
But the movie is save by some okay special effects and some decent acting, and some not bad dialog. Lesser hands like the ones who produce 90% of the horror direct to video schlock could have screwed this up.
It drags in parts and the final plot device (A paranormal investigator decides to keep the skulls of the ghosts so they can get proof of ghosts) is kind of silly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like horror movies with a preference toward haunted house movie and old school horror, and I like this movie... up to a point. The premise: three friends get drunk after a funeral and dance at the cemetery on graves in the area for the deranged. Afterwards, they become haunted by the psychos over whose bodies they danced. Why? Because a mysterious person left behind a chant which they... just happened to announce out loud. The premise is good, but the why is contrived. The story is scary, the ghosts are casual and the chain of events is preposterous as is the ghost hunters who risk their safety to help them. It is very hard for me to believe that the parapsychologist in the movie would go to such extreme ways and such a leap of faith to dig up some graves and follow a ridiculous mystical ritual instead of just tracking down the person who left the note that starts everything off. What? Did he get his degree out of a box of Crackerjacks? Besides that, several of the ghost sequences are scary, but the climax is a bit anticlimactic. Paranormal accuracy is out the window for sake of story, but the movie is a "worth-see" if you want good to uneven scares.
This isn't a awful scary movie but it's still pretty darn bad. The
whole movie just didn't flow very well and just comes off random a lot
of times with it's events. The pop up scares are just bunch of cheap
shots in this and the only scary thing is the design of the ghost. The
ghost actually look pretty scary but that is far as that goes. It seems
they didn't know what direction to go with this and it just seemed all
over the place. The horror elements isn't anything new and sometimes
comes off funny than actually scary and they didn't intentionally try
to go in a humorous direction. The whole premise is just plain stupid
and silly than actually scare you can't help but roll your eyes. It
seemed like they were just making it up as they went and didn't think
things through in creating one story that would work. The whole movie
just comes off as one big mess than a legit horror flick. There is just
a lot to this movie that just doesn't make any sense. Not many but
there were few scenes that was entertaining somewhat since it's over
the top silly. Especially near the end with the ghost battle. Overall
this is more of a ridiculous and humorous flick than scary, it isn't a
super awful horror movie but it's pretty close. I give it a 3.9 because
the silly parts were at least somewhat entertaining.
Well I was expecting worse, but that doesn't stop this entry (out of the 'Eight Films to Die For' collection) from just being an accommodatingly so-so effort in the paranormal field. Going against it was that the story was so telegraphed and formulaic, which led to many dull passages and hot air build ups. The idea is fine (which has some drunken young adults who were college buds disturbing the peace of the dead when reading out some card they find at their deceased friend's grave, while dancing on their graves. Now they're haunted by those spirits, and race against time with the help of a parapsychologist to end the curse before they take their lives), but the situation's progression is thinly stale and the execution is all flash, but colorlessly achieved. It's subtle build up kind of works when they encounter their unusual ghostly shenanigans, though it grows a bit tired however the last half hour doesn't work with its hysterical charge and overblown special effects. I thought the FX was well used during stages when it was focusing on the spirits, where the images of their sunken faces and flowing movements were effectively creepy. The performances by Dominic Purcell, Clare Kramer, Marcus Thomas, Josie Maran, Tchéky Karyo and Megahn Perry stand-up, if a little black and white. Director Mike Mendez overdone style etches its way in and takes away from the suspense, where he demonstrates a drearily cold atmosphere and lasting visuals caught by expansive photography. A ho-hum low-budget supernatural thriller.
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