2010 After Dark Horrorfest: The Graves (2010)
Here we are folks; it’s that time of year again. This year’s After Dark Horrorfest 2010 is upon us. My good friend Shaun May over at Wreckhouse Magazine (visit their website here) sent me over the early release copies of the eight flicks in this year’s horrorfest. I’ll be watching and reviewing them over the next few nights, so stay tuned.
Our first one is The Graves. This is the story of two sisters, Megan and Abby Graves (played by Clare Grant and Jillian Murray respectively) who are having a last hurrah. Megan is moving to New York City to start a new job and the sisters are trying to get in some good last minute sisterly bonding. Driving through Arizona they decide to stop at an abandoned haunted gold mine that is now a tourist trap. During their self-guided tour they are attacked and chased around by a maniac with a hammer. But he is only the start of their problems. And this is also the start of our problems. This one isn’t too good folks, but unlike past Horrorfest movies the problems here aren’t with the performances or the pacing. It’s in the story and the execution.
First; the performances. Besides our sexy-ish sisters this movie also stars Tony (Candyman) Todd and Bill (The Devil’s Rejects) Moseley. They are both iconic horror actors and here they are completely wasted. Todd gives what is becoming his trademarked “crazy preacher”-like performance. He walks around spouting out fire and brimstone sermons to his misguided flock. You’ve seen him do this act before, and while he’s good at it it just has that “been there, done that” feel to it. And Bill Moseley also plays his standard “he seemed like a good guy at first” character who is actually a raving psycho. At one point when he’s hunting down our sisters he puts on a rubber pig’s nose and runs around grunting like a pig and screaming “suuu-ey.” Only Moseley could pull such a role off without it looking completely retarded!!
And the last performance that I must point out is Clare Grant’s. Oh Clare. I loved her in the Master’s of Horror episode “Valarie on the Stairs,” and she has a great wholesome look and a great rack. But she over-stepped her abilities here. I don’t think she was ready for a lead role. Her performance, marked with over-acting and pandering to the camera, was definitely the weakest in the movie.
Next; the story and execution. Simply put the story is a fucking mess. It seems this small Arizona town has been harboring a demon who can’t kill on its own so it releases some foul smell that makes the town-folk crazy. The townies kill any visitors who come by and believe they are doing the lord’s work, for some reason. The demon then sucks the souls out of the fresh corpses to feed. We only get to see the “soul sucking” scene once and it was a pretty decent effect. But after that one time the camera turns away as the demon ravages the dead body. Disappointing. And since we’re on the topic of the f/x, they are terrible. There are no practical f/x in the entire flick; everything from a head getting beaten by a hammer to blood spraying all over is done with CGI. And it looks extremely fake. Blech.
And in a weird move we pretty much know about the soul-sucking demon from the first 30 minutes of the film but director Brian Pulido acts as if we have no idea what’s going on. When one of the town’s folk gives us the “big reveal” you’re kinda sitting there like “Ok; I figured that’s what was going on. Is that it?” It’s very anti-climatic. And the decision to title the movie after the two lead sisters was a bad mistake. First off, are the sisters really supposed to be the focus of the story? If more focus was placed on the demon and its relation to the townies then we may have had a better movie here. By naming the movie after the sisters you never feel that Megan and Abby are ever in any real danger. Sure they get messed up a bit, but you never really fear that either sister is going to get killed off. And why would you? The movie’s named after them!!
The beginning of the flick had promise (there’s even a cameo performance by the group punk-metal band Calabrese). There was still a little bit of mystery as to what was going on. You know people are getting killed in this town but you also know there’s more to it than simply a crazy family on the loose. But Pulido blows his wad too soon and with the mystery disappearing, so does your interest. Pulido also flirts with the idea of briefly turning the movie into a torture flick (when Grant and Moseley are facing off). You get the feeling the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, so it decides to be a huge mess. On the plus side, The Graves does have better production values than most Horrorfest flicks and the pacing is definitely a step above other Horrorfest entries. But unfortunately there’s not enough to keep you interested. The final part of the film just completely falls apart. After the sisters are caught and escape unharmed for the 57th time, the movie just sorta ends. In the end the demon enters Tony Todd’s body and Todd looks up into the camera and utters the film’s last dialogue in a guttural, demonic-sounding voice: “We are legion; we are many.” WTF?? Really??? If the demon could enter Todd’s body, then why the fuck didn’t it do so before? Oh whatever; that’s but one mystery for the movie. I think Pulido was more interested in setting up a sequel than he was in just giving it a good ending. And by the way, Pulido is working on The Graves 2: Return to Skull City. Again, blech.
I really need to mention one last thing about this flick and that’s the absolute shameless self-promotion by director Pulido. Pulido has created, written, and co-written numerous graphic novels and in the opening scenes of the movie we see Megan and Abby in a comic book store holding up copies of Pulido’s comics to the camera talking about how much they love them. And then we see a mile-long banner advertising a website (which I won’t name here). Really Brian? That was just really poor judgment on his part.
Hopefully the next 2010 After Dark Horrorfest flicks that I review will be better. I can’t help it, I’m a hopeful optimist!! But as far as this one goes, you can skip it.
Director: Brian Pulido (and writer)
Plot: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls (for terrible CGI f/x)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer