Grave Encounters: the Ultimate “Found Footage Parody”

a night vision lit creepy hallway

Grave Encounters’ Lance Preston: “This place is as haunted as a sock drawer.

Found footage films usually partake in tropes in order to seem genuine. Shaky camera work, faux realistic acting, and badly edited monsters abound! Good found footage films realize these tropes and do their best to subvert or capitalize on them. Grave Encounters does the latter ridiculously well.

Grave Encounters, released in 2011, is a found footage film, sure. However, it’s also a great parody of the TV show Ghost Adventures, with a Zach Baggins look-alike. “Lance Preston” is equally as annoying and corny. A lot of reviews for this film call it “unoriginal” and “typical.” Well, they’re wrong. Here’s why.

Grave Encounters Depicts TV with Uncanny Accuracy 

The Grave Encounters crew staring into the camera on a dark night, lit by a shoulder mounted camera light.
Look at these badasses mugging the camera, Ghost Adventures style. (image credit: Tribeca Film)

From the title cards to the paid off interviews, Grave Encounters reeks of its source material. Preston is the perfect beta male ghost hunter, donning spiky hair and a melodramatic way of speaking. The actor, Sean Rogerson, nails the part. His mannerisms and dialect changes are almost on par with Zach Baggins. In fact, his cohorts are played well too. 

The asylum setup is such a stereotypical and cliche ghost hunting move, it’s a surprise it hasn’t been explored as much in the found footage niche. Yet, it’s overdone on ghost hunting shows. Grave Encounters is aware of these cliches and uses them to its advantage. Watching Lance pay some custodian a hundred bucks to say the place is haunted is golden. It displays the lengths these paranormal investigators probably go for content.

The Film has Some Actual Scares

A terrifying ghost screaming at the night vision camera
This guy really gets up in Lance’s face. He’s a spooky boy. (image credit: Tribeca Film)

Found footage films are common for a reason. They can be scary when done well. The key to Grave Encounters’ success was its commitment to making the film seem real. An interview with the director opens the film. He calls it “real and untouched footage” in a poorly filmed segment on a camcorder. The Vicious Brothers released the film under the guise of it being genuine found footage. It makes people question the validity of the film, setting them up to be scared.

The directors follow this with optimal spooks and decently placed jumpscares. The whole film reads like a constant romp through a haunted house. There are no real breaks in the atmosphere or any pauses for character development. The whole thing is a start-to-finish bloodbath as soon as the cast gets into the asylum, and honestly, that’s the best. It’s a real no-frills horror experience.

In conclusion, go watch Grave Encounters if you like found footage films or if you just want to wet yourself. It’ll do that to you.

By John Castro

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