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Film / Grave Encounters

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Grave Encounters is a 2011 indie found footage horror film directed by the Vicious Brothers. It documents the fate of the crew of a Ghost Adventures-type reality show which surveys haunted locations in the hopes of capturing ghostly activity on film. A prologue mentions that this particular episode, centering around an abandoned mental hospital in the Danvers County area, was to be the sixth, and the raw footage shows how the crew initially play up the spooky factor to increase the atmosphere. However, they soon find themselves in the middle of a nightmare as the sun goes down...

It has a sequel, Grave Encounters 2.


The movie provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The setting, of course.
  • Accidental Truth: Most of what Houston says while acting as a fake psychic.
  • Action Survivor: Lance in the sequel. Surviving for nine months, only nine months on the inside, with the weird time shenanigans inside the asylum he perceives 9 YEARS having gone by in the hospital takes a toll on his sanity, but it's impressive nonetheless.
  • Afraid of Blood: Nobody wants to be near the bathtub of blood in the bathroom (except Matt but he's insane at this point) so naturally everyone wants to leave. Matt won't get away from the tub so T.C. goes over to talk some sense into him. A pale human-looking thing explodes out and drags T.C. into the tub. The group tips the tub over to save him, only to find he isn't even in there...
  • Alien Geometries: The hospital itself. When the team decides to bash the front door open after a few hours, they find that instead of leading outside, it just leads to another corridor. When someone suggests that they just got the layout mixed up, Sasha finds the same markings on the door as the entrance door did— proving that it WAS the same door. A staircase to the roof ends with a wall, and corridors changing as they're walking through it. Time itself is warped inside the hospital; the camera timer shows the minutes passing faster and faster, and near the end of the movie time is moving so fast the numbers are just flashing by incomprehensibly.
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  • Always Night: Lance notes that it's dark outside at 8:30 AM when it should have been bright by 7:45. Later on, Lance checks the time again— it's 1PM, it's still pitch black. Even later again, the time is 8PM and there has been no sign of sunlight. It's also implied the hospital has it's own dimension.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The footage, of course.
  • Asshole Victim: Deconstructed with the Grave Encounters crew: While they have their arrogant moments (mainly Lance, Houston, and T.C.), it's clear they're just a normal TV crew just wanting to make entertainment. Lance does seem invested in haunted locations, however seemed jaded that he can't find the right location. Sasha and Matt seem to only be with the crew out just for the job and arguably because they do enjoy the paranormal, but that's about it.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: At one point the group is attacked by a series of black arms reaching out of the wall, and earlier in the movie Sasha is grabbed by an arm that busts through the glass of a door she's standing near, but the viewer never sees who these arms belong to, if anyone at all.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As the tagline states - "They were searching for proof... They found it."
  • Bald of Evil: Dr. Arthur Friedkin as his beginning picture shows.
  • Black Magic: The ending strongly implies that Dr. Friedkin employed the use of such magic in his medical experiments, and may even be the reason for the hospital itself apparently existing in another dimension.
  • Blatant Lies: Before the genuine spooky starts, the unedited footage shows Lance bribing a newly-hired gardener into claiming he'd seen a ghost at the asylum during his "ten years" of working there.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Sasha.
  • Break the Cutie: Sasha, who spends half of the film being attacked by the ghosts, having her back scratched and getting progressively sick before disappearing.
    • Break the Haughty: Lance, who started off the film as a super confident ghost hunter (with a bit of cynicism over how every location they went to wasn't that haunted with ghosts) is reduced to a broken, insane driven man who's eventually lobotomized.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Lance ends up lobotomized, but it isn't made clear if he dies or not. The Sequel covers what happened
  • Camera Abuse: Blood winds up on the camera many times, and the camera is used to beat someone to death at one point.
  • Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore:
    • The group decides to house up in a defunct mental hospital overnight where ghostly apparitions exist, believing that it is safe and nothing but folklore. Boy does that turn out wrong.
    • Played with repeatedly throughout the movie. Regularly the crew tries to hole themselves up in a room to try and rest, and every time they're attacked or spooked in some fashion, in this specific order:
      • The lobby is the first camp spot, but the crew moves out after something knocks out their floodlights.
      • The next camp spot is a storage closet, which is abandoned after the group finds Matt, but they make a new camp spot in a patient room. They're later chased out of this one by a horde of ghostly arms that reach through the walls and ceiling.
      • The final camp spot is another patient room, which is made after T.C.'s death.
  • Ceiling Cling: The tongue-less ghost.
  • Credits Gag: Any similarity to actual persons, living or (un)dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental. No Rats Were Eaten During the Making of this Film
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Almost every death.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: As the tagline states - "They were searching for proof. They found it."
  • Dark World: The asylum is at best dark aside from their flashlights, but the tunnels are pitch black.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Any character moving around on their own or out of shot or view is effectively doomed.
  • Death by Falling Over: Matt, in his insane state, looks down the elevator shaft with the camera. The camera shows him falling to his doom, and the two remaining members both rush over to find him dead, having fallen over four floors to the ground and hitting solid concrete.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: It works better than other movies, though, as no one really grips the Idiot Ball, and their backstories help the audience empathize more strongly with their situation - a key element in a movie built on Nothing Is Scarier.
  • Downer Ending: The sole survivor, Lance, is shown having been lobotomized in the last scene.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The crew are told a story about a patient of the hospital who slit her wrists in a bathtub - the bloodstains are faded but still visible. She turns up later to kill T.C.
    • Later, Matt, having been driven insane, throws himself down an elevator shaft. although this one may have been an accident.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Its heavily implied the hospital is one.
  • Eldritch Location: The hospital. There's an increasingly strong implication that it's not even in our own dimension.
  • Endless Corridor: The service tunnels are supposed to have turn-offs going to various buildings, and be only about a quarter-mile long. Towards the end, there's nothing but a single, long corridor that the protagonists walk along for days.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The bodies of the crew are never stated to be found, and it's uncertain if the crew has become a part of the dead walking in the hospital or are gone, but it's certain that whatever is in the hospital is still there.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: One by one the characters die off, until even Lance is lobotomized and we never find out what happened to him when they found the camera equipment.
  • Expy: Lance Preston is clearly meant to be Zak Bagans.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: When everyone finds the bathroom, a woman is standing facing a corner. While she turns her head she appears fairly normal, but after just a few seconds her face distorts horribly as she lets out an inhuman scream.
  • Final Boy: Lance who ends up being lobotomized.
  • Fog of Doom: Sasha's vanishing.
  • Foreshadowing: When Lance, Matt, and Sasha are headed to the elevators, they pass by a room that a loud roar emits from, but they continue. Lance later has to return to this same room, and finds out what it was.
    • A lot of scenes in the movie are like this, particularly their comments while down in the tunnels.
      • T.C. is attacked and pulled into a tub of blood by some humanoid entity, but vanishes in the tub like he disappeared. The tub is the same tub Lance had been telling us earlier was used by a patient to slit her wrists and die in when the hospital was open.
      • The window from the beginning of the movie that Kenny talked about did open with Matt in the room.
      • Dr. Friedkin is talked about for a good several minutes at the beginning of the movie, and Matt references that "he" can help them get better and leave the hospital. His ghost shows up later in the fabled operating room.
      • At one point the crew wakes up and realizes Sasha's back has "HELLO" scratched deep into it - a Call-Back since she had been the one trying to contact them using EVP earlier. After this, the ghosts begin starting up.
      • When the search begins, they run into a room with a bunch of rats in it and are grossed out. Lance winds up having to eat the rats for sustenance, and the same door leads to Dr. Friedkin's operating room later.
      • One of the gimmicks the crew uses at the beginning is using a flash-camera to take pictures, since supposedly ghosts show up more clearly in them. When they first attempt this, there is nothing there other than the photographed walls. When Lance later hastily does this while angrily wondering what's causing the disturbances, the pictures now depict demonic ghostly entities floating nearby all the characters.
      • Lance explains that "intelligent hauntings," while rare, involve spirits interacting with the living, and that people have been pushed, scratched and even thrown. TC gets pushed down the stairs, Sasha wakes up with a message scratched on her back, and Houston is thrown across a hallway via an explosion.
  • For the Evulz: The ghosts surely have a lot of fun in doing all their stuff to the visitors.
  • Found Footage Films: In the vein of The Blair Witch Project.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Present, if downplayed. Lance is the Realist, Houston is the Optimist, T.C. is the Cynic, and Sasha is Apathetic (after the first solid interaction with a ghost).
  • From Bad to Worse: You might think the ghosts have reached a high-level when they turn the hospital into a labyrinth of looping hallways. They haven't.
  • Ghostly Gape: The woman in the corner reveals herself to be a ghost by way of this trope. So does the surgeon at the end.
  • Ghostly Goals: Type B; the ghosts in the hospital don't seem to have any purpose beyond running around scaring everybody, causing extreme harm, and killing.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Sasha's disappearance is the final nail in the coffin for Lance's sanity.
  • Heroic BSoD: Virtually everyone at some point.
  • Hope Spot: The crew finds a door with an EXIT sign... but it opens on yet another hospital corridor.
    • Prior to that, T.C. and Lance use a gurney as a battering ram to bust open the front doors of the hospital... but instead of the outside world, they find only another dark corridor.
    • Later, the crew finds a sign pointing towards roof access. A solid wall is blocking them off.
  • Horror Struck: Members of the cast and crew at first dismiss the stories of the hospital as garbage, and even bribe a man to make stuff up because they don't believe they'll find anything. Then, when every story they heard comes true, suddenly they're all believers. Sasha and Lance are at least open to the possibility that ghosts exist, but unlike Lance Sasha loses interest fast in proving the supernatural exists after a ghost makes physical contact with her.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The ghosts look human, but their behavior, strength, and face contortions show that if they were, they aren't anymore.
  • I Want My Mommy!: During a scene where Sasha is projectile vomiting blood out of her mouth she starts crying and desperately cries out that she wants her mom. Poor girl just needs a hug.
  • Jerkass: T.C. after the hauntings begin. Although it's understandable as to why he's feeling that way he ends up taking out his anger on Houston repeatedly. At one point, a ghost knocks over the floodlights in the lobby, and T.C. immediately assumes Houston did it.
    • Lance, although he's definitely more reserved and it's less on him being angry and rude and more dissolute at the fact he hasn't been able to find the right haunted location (with of course, a bit of desire to win fame). He gets it in the end.
  • Jitter Cam: Sometimes intentional, sometimes not.
  • Jump Scare: There are a few of these towards the beginning, mostly replacing the jump scares with actual attacks later on.
  • Large Ham: Houston's on-screen persona. He ditches the act when the hauntings start happening.
  • Laughing Mad: Matt and Lance.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Lampshaded by Sasha when Lance suggests doing this while looking for Matt. they wind up doing it anyway.
  • Lobotomy: The doctor at the Abandoned Hospital was known for unethical practices, especially lobotomies.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Friedkin.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Early on, T.C. gets a phone call from his partner and child, so he puts the camera down to answer it. As he talks, the wheelchair behind him moves by itself ever so slightly just as he says "Don't worry, monsters aren't real."
    • The final photograph Lance snaps (see Spooky Photographs below) displays the shadow of someone's hands pressed up against the window Lance is standing in front of.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the room with writing all over the walls, the patient inside had written, amongst other things, "DEMONS IN THE WALLS / DEMONS IN THE HALLS / DEMONS IN MY MIND / DEMONS YOU WILL FIND". Lance later starts screaming this mantra as he completely loses it.
  • Medical Horror: Dr. Friedkin, the famous surgeon who did tons of unethical experiments, including lobotomies mentioned at the beginning of the film is in the hospital with the ghosts still doing lobotomies with his nurses and tools. This is especially true since the ending strongly implies that the reason for all this ghost business is that he was taking part in some kind of Black Magic.
  • Never Sleep Again: The crew tries to stay awake in shifts, because whenever they all fall asleep, something bad happens to remind the cast they're being toyed with. Sasha is effectively "killed" in the end when a fog envelopes her and Lance while they sleep, only to have Lance awaken unharmed but with no clue as to where Sasha is: taken by the fog while they slept.
  • The Night That Never Ends: Shortly after they discover the asylum's passages are shifting around, the film crew realize that sunrise is overdue. Days pass by the clock, yet the night persists uninterrupted for the remainder of their footage.
  • Nightmare Face: Ooooh boy. Multiple ghosts in the movie can distort their faces rather drastically and their eyes become glowing marbles, losing all eye color and iris otherwise.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Somewhat averted; unlike most of the movies in its genre, the ghosts in this film get bored of being subtle after 15 minutes. There are still some nice tense moments where the viewer is waiting to see what's around the corner.
    • Houston's death is a result of this. We see him blunder down a hallway in pure darkness, unaware of the overhead camera's set up to watch, and is unable to see because his flashlight died. As he wanders down the hall, the viewer can clearly see Houston is the only visible entity on camera, but as he nears the end of the hallway, he is lifted off the ground and choked by some invisible entity. Houston is in total darkness and thus cannot see, so he begins swiping at the air trying to hit whatever's grasping him, but the viewer can clearly see whatever it is, it's apparently not only invisible, but intangible. Houston then gets violently launched down the hallway and dies from the impact.
  • Only Sane Man: T.C. comes across as this, being the first character to say Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Phony Psychic: Houston is supposedly a psychic who the team recruited to make contact with the spirits in the locations they visit, but as shown whenever they're not filming, he's actually just an actor Lance hired after he pitched the series. In one scene, they have him fake a spiritual interaction where he "picks up" on the supernatural energy in the hospital, where he's just using info they've gotten from other people they've interviewed.
  • Psychological Horror: They do have a lot of physical threats, but there are several indirect threats as well from sickness, lack of food, never-ending corridors and no exits, culminating with the fact that time is passing very quickly and they have no light.
  • Psycho Party Member: Matt totally loses his marbles altogether and becomes insane. Luckily he doesn't hurt anyone, although he does indirectly cause T.C.'s death and also kills himself.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Lance, after several days of being trapped and desperate and for several years between films.
  • Room Full of Crazy: One of the hospital rooms has cryptic writing carved into every inch of its walls, which a patient allegedly created while institutionalized there. The sequel would imply another author: the hospital itself.
  • Room101: The hospital in a general sense, and the operation chamber in a literal example.
  • Sanity Slippage: Pretty much everyone starts losing it as things get worse. It's open to interpretation if they're going insane because of the traumatic events they're experiencing, or if the hospital itself is supernaturally causing it.
  • Screamer Trailer: Several ghosts attack in the trailer, and at the end a bed is thrown and Sasha starts screaming.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The team actually wants to call it quits when things just became mildly creepy, but Lance wants to film everything. Turns out, even if they decided to leave right then and there, its not like the hospital would let them.
  • Security Blanket: Lance clings to the cameras as a way to comfort himself once shit hits the fan, which the others find annoying because they don't want those dark moments filmed.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Lance's lobotomy is not shown. You hear him plead sanity, then scream in pain before seeing the after effects.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sole Survivor: By the end, Lance is the only survivor of his crew even after he's lobotomized.
  • Spooky Photographs: After the first few scares seem to have died down, Lance frustratedly starts taking photos in an attempt to grab some more paranormal evidence. He succeeds.
  • Stylistic Suck: Houston is only pretending to be a psychic for the purpose of the show... and it shows in his blatantly hammy and cheesy performance. Word of God states that Houston was based on a real-life "psychic" employed for a Ghost Hunters-style show.
    • Early in the film we see a title sequence for the show - it's pretty cheesy and suitably low-budget for what's supposed to be cheaply made reality tv.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Virtually everybody, but T.C. and Houston especially, the former grabbed and vanishes, the second thrown through the air with no warning and dies.
  • Take That!: To Ghost Hunters and similar shows, and reality shows in general.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The tongue-less ghost.
  • Tongue Trauma: Lance finds a dismembered tongue on the floor. Blood dripping from the ceiling quickly alerts him to the tongue's owner...
  • Torture Cellar: The basic purpose of the operating room was to test lobotomies, as history will say the methods were often very cruel and the victims did not survive very long. Lance finds this out first hand.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The woman in the corner.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Some of the earlier antics are partially reminiscent of how real ghost hunting teams such as Ghost Hunters do things, but when they actually start seeing ghosts it blows into its own story.
  • Was Once a Man: Heavily implied. In one point in time they were normal human beings. Skip to the present and now they're ghostly Humanoid Abominations stalking the hallways of the hospital for victims.


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