Recent paranormal investigation films with potential
My attention to current horror films tends to wax and wane depending on my attention to other ongoing projects at any given time. As a result, I sometimes miss potentially decent supernatural horror films in my preferred horror genres/sub-genres. Here are a couple of paranormal investigation movies — supernatural horror films based on successful found-footage paranormal investigation films like Grave Encounters.
The School in the Woods (2010)
The School in the Woods (2010), Official trailer on YouTube
Country: Canada Director: the Vicious Brothers (This was their first directorial effort; great job!) Verdict: 8/10 – a great horror movie… is, without a doubt, the scariest paranormal investigation movie I have ever seen.”Horror themes:Grave Encounters (2011) – Official trailer (YouTube)
Grave Encounters: Plot summary
Lance Preston and the crew of Grave Encounters, a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena have been reported for years. In the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted – it is alive – and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. (Source: Official Grave Encounters site)
Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital staff, other interviewees
Bob Rathie as Kenny Sandivol, Collingwood caretaker
Ben Wilkinson as Jerry Hartfield
Arthur Corber as Dr. Arthur Friedkin
Luis Javier as the Collingwood gardener
Shawn Macdonald as Morgan Turner, Town historian
Gary, a contractor who did some work there
Musings on Grave Encounters: The scariest paranormal investigation film yet
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this lengthy section contains some personal musings and a partial account of what happens to the crew in this film – and therefore DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS – you CAN read this and STILL be totally freaked out and creeped out by what happens on the screen when you actually see this obviously frightening movie. However, if you don’t want to know ANY DETAILS, then you should stop reading here. I am not revealing everything that happens, but I do describe quite a few of the supernatural events and scares.
Soon after the crew is locked inside the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital by Kenny the caretaker, they explore various parts of the building – all the while calling out for any spirits to make themselves known. In the sub-level tunnels, they finally may have gotten a response: some noises are clearly heard. The crew looks for the source of the noises, are scared to fully open a slightly ajar door, and are shocked to find rats in the room.
Many paranormal investigators don’t even believe.
Cheesy, fake psychic medium Houston Gray has a big laugh about the rats, but Lance Preston fails to see the humor. "It’s not funny. This place is about as haunted as a sock drawer," he moans.
So, what we have here – just like in real life, basically – is a jaded paranormal investigation crew whose members don’t actually believe they’ll ever capture any evidence of a real haunting; they may not even believe in the paranormal in the first place. They are simply out to create entertainment and make a buck – and that’s that. This was already fairly clear based on Sasha Parker’s quick, informal interview with Lance Preston just before they entered the building.
They’re jokes and pranks – not hauntings.
When strange events begin to occur, they find it interesting and coincidental. But when these inexplicable occurrences happen in their immediate vicinity – thus becoming indisputable – they are convinced, NOT of any supernatural cause, but instead that they are being pranked or punked by some jokesters who happen to know they are filming there at Collingwood on this night. They start looking for someone who has been making these noises, successfully playing these jokes on them.
There is no need to be frightened; they are all together, cameras rolling – and besides, it’s nothing more than a gag: simple tomfoolery.
The first unquestionable supernatural event that occurs to the crew while most of them are together (Lance, Sasha, T.C., and Houston), happens just after cameraman T.C. has captured a heavy metal door closing on its own. He calls the team together and they collectively search for any possible cause for it. Failing to find a natural cause, they attempt to invoke a spirit – pleading with any available entity to make its presence known by slamming the door again, knocking, or whatever. The pleading here is honest; Lance is begging at this point. “Slam it!… Right now, please give us a sign…If there is anyone here, please give us a si-” – and right at that moment, before he even finishes uttering the word sign, Lance Preston starts to doubt. He is exasperated and frustrated, no doubt thinking to himself it is all a sham anyway, and how foolish he was to believe something might actually happen.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a haunting after all.
Lance mutters, "F&$k…f#@k…I thought we were actually going to have something here -"…and right then, in their immediate presence, W H A M !!! Someone or something has answered Lance’s plea, loud and clear. But it wasn’t the heavy metal door just behind them; that door did not move. (I’m still not exactly sure what made that loud noise.)
They are scared out of their collective minds – cursing, questioning…
Then they all hear a strange, distinct whirring sound coming from a nearby room. They follow the sound to its source: an overturned, wheeled operating table, with two of its wheels spinning rapidly, making the whirring noise. This is indeed strange, and while they are OMGing about it, they hear thudding coming from the floor above.
They radio Matt to ask if anyone is above them. No, no one. I think they want to believe that pranksters are close by, that they’re about to catch them. It probably makes them feel better – somewhat reassured – that the source of these events is just human antics. They call out to whoever it might be, hoping these events to be nothing more than a joke. "We’ll call the police," they yell. "We have a permit to be here, and you don’t!"
OMG: It’s DEFINITELY real!
At this point, Sasha is the only one who has questioned out loud that it might be a real paranormal event. "You guys, quiet… What if this is something REAL?" So Sasha decides to give the EVP another go; that is, audio taping to see if any voices are recorded. And this is where it gets really, really scary… As the four are listening to the playback of what Sasha has just recorded, an unseen force lifts some of Sasha’s long dark hair! OMG!!
Sasha is completely freaked out and is ready to end the whole thing. She wants to go back downstairs where Matt is, if not leave altogether. Lance asks Houston Gray – that cheesy medium – to escort Sasha downstairs, then come back up for more exploration and taping for the show. Houston wusses out and says he’s not coming back upstairs! After Lance yells at Houston, demanding that he be a bleeping professional, he agrees to come back up.
Three of them – T.C., Lance, and Houston – try to make contact with the spirit in the hallway where Sasha’s hair was manipulated by the unseen. They beg and plead to no avail. Lance gets frustrated, angry, and exasperated once again at the lack of response. Lance: Come on, you did it before, now do it again… What are you, effing scared?
In retrospect, perhaps Lance should have been more patient and tolerant when addressing the unseen.
Grave Encounters has some humor scattered throughout, too; however, I was too taken by the terrifying events to comprehend much humor the first time I saw the paranormal investigation film. For instance, when Lance asks the ghost to manipulate his hair, he’s straining to holding his video camera way back behind his head in order to capture his hair being manipulated, should it happen. Then:
Houston, the cheesy medium: Lance, it’s gone. It’s left us. [Closing his eyes, being dramatic] I’m sensing that it’s toying with us, that it’s a more mature – Lance: That’s enough of that s&$t, give it a rest! T.C.: Can we go home now?
Lance decides to engage in some spirit photography; he takes pictures with a flash down each dark hallway from the intersection they’re at. Of course, Lance and crew could not possibly know this, since the results of spirit photography don’t show up until the pictures are reviewed carefully (and after being developed, when film is used); but ghostly figures appeared in at least two of the photographs Lance just took. The first is a ghostly white shadow of a human figure; the second is a human shape with his hand against a window.
At this point, Lance concludes that they have enough footage to create a decent episode six of their show, Grave Encounters, and that they can head back down and start packing it up. T.C. is happy to hear this. They get a little lost but soon find their way back to Matt and Sasha.
Of course, the group has absolutely no idea that their horrific, ultimately doomed adventure has barely even gotten started and that the unseen are merely warming up. Yikes.
Why does Lance make Matt trek around the psychiatric hospital by himself to retrieve all the cameras he set up earlier? That seems downright cruel. But Matt is a sport and trudges off to take down the camera equipment. "I’ll be right back," Matt says. "Don’t leave without me." See ya, Matt… Much, much later.
Matt is seen for the last time (for a while, at least) as he realizes the window has come open by itself. This is the window that Kenny, the property caretaker, pointed out during the brief daylight tour as being a possible hotspot; there were numerous instances of the window being open in the morning when it had definitely been locked tight the night before. This is where Matt had taped an ‘X’ with red duct tape earlier.
Matt closes the window and locks it, then gets on the radio to tell the crew he has something they need to see. No one can hear him. Then Matt is distracted by a crashing echo reverberating through the hard halls. Matt yells at what he thinks are the guys messing around with him, then disappears down the hallway.
Sasha has convinced the crew that Matt should have been back by now, that it’s pitch black in the halls and he could have fallen and hurt himself. (Premonition?) Thanks to Sasha, she, Lance, and T.C. go searching for Matt. Houston stays behind in the group camp-out area, lounging comfortably. Instead of finding Matt, they find his camera equipment and other belongings scattered all over the place. Just after they split into two groups to look for Matt, T.C. falls – or is pushed – down a flight of stairs. He’s shaken but OK, physically – but T.C. is really pissed off and ready to leave at this point.
Breaking through doors: Quest for the exit
So T.C. gets the bright idea to ram through the exit door using a heavy metal-framed table on wheels. His outburst of anger basically forces Lance to help him, despite the fact that they will be liable for the door if they break it.
When they crash through the door, they get more bad news: it is not the exit – at least, not anymore. They are virtually certain that the very same doors were the way out.
The next issue was unexpected: there were major anomalies with regard to time of day, when daylight should have occurred, when caretaker Kenny had agreed to show up to unlock the doors, etc.
At this point in the film, the shocks and scares come at a much faster, soon-to-be unrelenting pace.
Unseen forces broke their main light. Let’s try to find another way out… there should be a fire escape leading from the roof. Time to find roof access. No dice; there is a wall where there should be a door to the roof. At this point Sasha is whimpering and crying a bit, and I can’t say I blame her.
Someone is screaming somewhere down a hallway – it must be Matt. (Wow – they forgot all about poor ol’ Matt!) They run toward the screams and end up in a large room that’s pretty bare except for the metal frame of a cot or small bed. When Lance gets near it, the bed frame scoots along the floor a bit – all by itself – at which Lance understandably verbally expresses shock. Then the metal frame rises into the air, twists around, and is hurled against the ceiling and back onto the floor. HOLY S! This is too much; all hell breaks loose, and the group flies into screaming, wailing, yelling, panic mode. (So would I.) As they run out of the room, there is the chattering sound out of a sci-fi movie – a sound an alien creature might make.
The gang has taken refuge in a small room – scared, hungry, dead dog tired. Soon after a pledge to sleep in shifts, they awake to find the word HELLO carved into Sasha’s back, now bleeding.
Absolutely chilling revulsion #1
The next ghostly apparition and accompanying terror – despite being partly revealed in the official Grave Encounters movie trailer – is so freaking horrifying that I will not even attempt to describe it here. Suffice to say that the visuals are only part of the abomination that fills this long 65 seconds or so. In this bit of pure pandemonium, Houston Gray loses track of the other three and is left behind. Although it wasn’t addressed in the film, there’s little doubt each crew member wet his or her pants at this point (that is, if they hadn’t already).
I’ll be quite happy to never, ever see or hear these things in reality. (It’s a safe bet I won’t, thank goodness…)
At some point – like after such an extreme, anxiety-inducing shock – the jaded horror fan may believe the maximum scare has been received, that no events to follow could match what has been seen and heard. That would be wrong.
After another nap, they awaken to find hospital admittance ID bracelets on their wrists – with the correct names on them. Whoa!
Matt is huddled on the floor, against a wall, dressed in a hospital gown, quivering and shaking, probably in shock.
Let’s try the tunnels.
Resources: Grave Encounters, 2011 supernatural horror film
A couple of weeks ago I was scanning Project Free TV for good horror flicks I’d never seen and soon found the 2011 supernatural horror movie Insidious. Given the mostly positive reviews and the potentially creepy supernatural subject matter of Insidious, I was rather surprised I hadn’t heard of it before, even though I don’t track the big screen like I used to due to budgetary constraints. Here’s the lowdown on Insidious, hopefully sufficient to help you decide if it’s a horror movie for you.
Country: U.S. – April 2011 Director: James Wan Horror themes: Haunting, intruders, coma, astral projection, paranormal investigation Verdict: 65/100… A good horror film Official trailer:Insidious movie trailer at IMDb
Brief synopsis of Insidious
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Synopsis of Insidious
Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) and their three kids just moved into a new house. As son Dalton is playing, he has a scare in the attic; when he cannot be awoken the next morning, he is rushed to the hospital where they learn Dalton is in an unexplained coma. Three months later and still in a coma, they bring Dalton home to care for him there. Escalating paranormal events occur and they end up moving to a new house – but this proves fruitless, as increasingly violent and supernatural events occur again. Josh’s mother (Barbara Hershey) contacts a friend of hers, Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye), a paranormal investigator. But can she discover the root problem and restore normalcy to the Lambert family?
My thoughts about Insidious
I watched Insidious a couple of days ago and I thought it was significantly better than the average horror movie. The cast performed superbly.
Resources: Insidious, 2011 supernatural horror film