Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Gravedancers (2006)

You know, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a decent ghost story. This is why I was very excited to see The Gravedancers, part of the After Dark Horrorfest. I had missed it in theaters, so I was all over it when it came out on DVD. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, yes and no…

After attending the funeral of their friend, three friends sneak back into the cemetery at night to say their final farewells to their buddy. After getting drunk, they find a mysterious black card that contains a poem. Standing on a headstone, Sid (Marcus Thomas), one of the friends, reads the poem out loud. Meanwhile, Kira (Josie Maran) and Harris (Dominic Purcell of Prison Break fame) make with the smoochies, despite the fact that Harris is married to the devoted Allison (Clare Kramer). After the poem gets Kira and Harris’ attention, the three friends begin dancing atop some graves, just as the poem says to.

The next day, things seem to go back to normal (you know, except for the fact that Allison suspects something is going on with Kira and her husband). The next few weeks bring an array of strange occurrences to Harris and Allison’s new house. Pipes clank, the cat hisses at nothing and the piano plays by itself. Thinking that Kira might be stalking them like she’s done in the past, the two go to confront her at her house after one particularly frightening episode…but find her badly beaten and possibly raped by what she says is an invisible force. After dropping Kira at the hospital, Harris and Allison go to Sid’s, who is also experiencing paranormal activity in the form of small fires breaking out around his apartment. He has hired two paranormal investigators to get to the bottom of the haunting. Before long, the fact that the three friends danced on graves is revealed and the investigators tell them this is grave desecration. Upon further investigation it is revealed that the graves they danced upon belonged to the “condemned” – the murderers, psychopaths, rapists, criminally insane and the like. The poem that was read was actually a spell to release the spirits of the dead. Now, an ax-wielding adulteress is after Harris, a child pyromaniac is after Sid and, worst of all, a sadistic rapist/murderer is after Kira. The ghosts are active for one month, but are getting stronger each day. The friends must find a way to put the ghosts at peace before the ghosts lay them to rest.

I have mixed feelings about this film. It starts off pretty sweetly, all slow and moody as the ghosts begin their haunting. As the ghosts get stronger, their scare tactics get bigger and bigger. When the ghosts are actually able to manifest, they look delightfully creepy (and yes, perhaps even a little cheesy). The creepiest of them all is the gaunt, naked old rapist/murderer who is after Kira. Yet, the (unintentionally?) hilarious and over-the-top ending is what killed the movie for me. There’s nothing like a cheesy, huge CGI ghost-head chasing a Hummer that is plowing through wall after wall of a mansion to kill any residual creepiness.

Yet, I can’t help but remember how enjoyable ¾ of the movie was! Sure, it could have been a lot better, but this film is what it is, and it was fun! There’s nothing new here and no twists or very many surprises, but this movie is pure, brainless entertainment. Director Mike Mendez realized that this story has been done before (and better), so he just decided to have fun with it. Sure it didn’t live up to my expectations as my new favorite ghost film, but it did entertain me!

There are a few tension-filled scenes, my favorite being when Harris and Allison find Allison cowering in the corner of her house, covered in bite marks. Verrryyy creepy. Or check out the scene with Allison in the hospital. I’ll never look at a gurney the same again! When Sid, Kira, Harris and Allison all take refuge in the massive mansion of the paranormal investigators, the creeps really kick in as the three ghosts begin their attacks in earnest. Throat-slashings, being burning alive, ax murders, inappropriate fondling…it’s all here!

If you are in the mood for some “horror-lite” cinema, check out The Gravedancers for some pure popcorn cinema! The ending is entirely silly, but the rest of the film is quite enjoyable and definitely worth a rental.

Available on Amazon!

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