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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.02.09] movie review horror

Year: 2010
Directors: Brian Pulido
Writers: Brian Pulido
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 6 out of 10

Director Brian Pulino’s latest horror/thriller, The Graves, is a tale of two sisters on a road trip to celebrate older sibling, Megan (Jillian Murray), landing a marketing job in New York. Her little sister Abby (Clare Grant) keeps a video diary starting with them leaving their local comic book store, hitting a rock club and setting off for adventure. The drive down south from Pittsburgh takes them to a diner outside Unity; a long abandoned gold mining community that serves as a self-toured tourist exhibit. The diner is called Screamers, “and their burgers are killer”.

As soon as they sit down to order they notice a bullish black priest (played by Tony Todd – Candyman, Night of the Living Dead ‘90) enter, along with a crying teenage girl, who he angrily tries to calm-down. The waitress smiles apologetically and suggests that the girls take a look at old Unity, where they can find some real ghosts. Abby is scared, and Megan sceptical, but curiosity gets the better of them and the pay their $7 for a chance to check out the town, and are almost immediately attacked by a psychopath who chases them all over the place while apologising profusely and explaining that it’s just his job, as they find dozens of other tourists, many butchered, littering the abandoned buildings.

The Graves (so called because it’s the girls’ surname) is a pretty standard horror flick, with some good pacing and suspense, violence, gore and of course, revenge. While Abby and Meg may be scared witless, they both have an arc in which they learn to stand-up and fight-back. I enjoyed the film hugely at first, as it’s everything a horror film of this nature should be, with the added bonus of actor Bill Moseley (Repo! The Genetic Opera). Moseley’s entire part a real treat and he plays the role perfectly. He’s the local psycho’s brother, Caleb, and is also pretty psychotic himself, but his cheery demeanour and dreamboat smile make him a truly freakish killer. He laments that his brother isn’t really into the whole ‘killing thing’, and manages to convince Megan that killing feels just great. Seriously, every word from this guy is awesome, great work Bill.

Unfortunately after the girls (SPOILER – skip to end paragraph to avoid!) manage to escape from Caleb and his family, the film doesn’t do what I’d really hoped it would: end. Pulino bravely takes the battered girls, who’ve by this point have proved themselves well (and the performances are good, Murray and Grant have good chemistry and I found them convincing enough to root for them) are whisked back to the Union Town Hall and Tony Todd’s scary black priest ties them up and begins to expose them to the bizarre McGuffin that is Union’s mineshaft. Seems the mine is full of a gas that causes people to go insane and attack each other. The girls manage to escape and turn the evil gas onto the townsfolk, who basically tear the town apart... An utterly over-the-top performance from Todd as the most clichéd black reverend I’ve ever seen seemed really unnecessary, especially since Todd could have played the part more low-key and probably more convincingly. The only decent thing about the last act is the fact that Todd does this extremely fruity little dance as he preaches to the congregation, and it made me laugh. The worst thing is that Pulino’s direction had really held together that first and second act, they were great! I think taking on such a big plot shift and ambitious idea (to have a town tear itself apart) was something of a mistake. If things had been kept small scale as they were in the early scenes, and during the chase around the ghost town, then the film would have been far better. Getting a few of extras to pretend to be violently insane, without tight as a drum direction, just looks amateurish and detracts from the power of the first part.

The last act of the film kills it for me. I was really impressed with the initial set-up, and the trouble the girls find themselves in with psychos Celeb and his brother is exciting and amusingly gory, but as soon as the third act back in town begins, I felt the whole film unravelled and became a total mess. So my advice; if you find yourselves watching The Graves, actually just switch-off the DVD, or walk out of the theatre, after the scene in the abandoned school. If you do that, you’ll have watched a decent and inventive, well acted piece of horror in the same vein of The Hills Have Eyes. If you keep watching you’ll find yourself thinking, WTF?

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