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Film / The Gravedancers

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The Gravedancers is a 2006 American horror film, directed Mike Mendez and starring Dominic Purcell and Clare Kramer.

After the funeral of a old friend who died in a car accident, former school friends Harris, Kira, and Sid break into the local cemetery after dark, and after Sid reads a mysterious incantation he finds on one of the nearby tombstones, they dance on the graves. Soon, the three of them find themselves haunted by three different ghosts whose graves they desecrated. Harris and his wife Allison find themselves haunted by a deranged female pianist/axe murderer. Sid gets haunted by a child pyromaniac. And Kira haunted by a sadistic rapist. All of them turn to a paranormal investigator named Vincent Cochet and his assistant Frances to try to help them break the curse they imposed on themselves before the next full moon when they will be killed by the ghosts' wrath.

The Gravedancers contains examples of:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: It is unlikely that any of the bad events of the film would have transpired had not Harris, Kira and Sid been drunk enough to think dancing on graves was a good idea.
  • Axe-Crazy: All of the ghosts. Their only goal is to violently destroy those who desecrated their graves. It is literally true in the case Emma who was an axe murderer when she was alive, and uses an axe as her weapon when she comes back from the dead.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Vincent and Frances are looking for concrete evidence of a supernatural event. While they find it, it turns out to be far more than they can handle.
  • Bedmate Reveal: The horror version. Harris wakes up with a woman's arm draped over his chest, and he assumes it's his wife Allison. Then he hears Allison in the bathroom. He looks over and discovers that the woman next to him is Emma; the vengeful ghost who is trying to kill him. Emma wraps her limbs around him and lunges for him before being hit by the morning light and vanishing.
  • Bunker Woman: Judge William Langer used to keep women imprisoned in his basement. He forgot about one of them and she perished in the cage. When he returns as a ghost, he keeps Kira imprisoned in her house for several weeks while he tortures and rapes her.
  • Buried Alive: During the Grave Robbing scene, Kira is imprisoned inside a coffin that is then slowly sucked into the earth. Later, when Harris attempt to deposit Emma's skull in the grave, he is pulled in as well and covered with dirt. Allison and Victor manage to dig him out.
  • Car Fu: When Harris is trapped inside the mansion with the angry ghosts, Allison drives the hummer through the wall in order to rescue him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The axe being used to split firewood when Harris, Allison and Sid first arrive at the mansion. During the final confrontation, Emma summons it to her hand and uses it to go on a rampage.
  • Cold Open: The film opens with a young woman being attacked and murdered by a ghost. This scene has no bearing on anything else that happens in the film. Word of God from director Mike Mendez that this scene is the result of Executive Meddling from the producers, who wanted a death in the opening scene so audiences would know it was a horror movie.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The slim man talking to Kira at the wake is the film's writer, Brad Keene.
    • Director of Photography David Armstrong has a cameo as a policeman in the flashback where Emma is discovered playing the piano.
  • Crusty Caretaker: The cemetery caretaker lurks around in the background of many scenes, looking threatening but not otherwise doing anything. However, at the very end of the film, it is revealed that he is the one leaving the incantation on graves.
  • Dishonored Dead: Harris, Sid and Kira discover that the graves that they desecrated were in a section of the cemetery reserved for those the town did not want buried with the rest of the dead: violent criminals, the mentally ill, etc. Kira is especially disturbed to discover that the tombstone of William Langer—the grave she danced upon—has the epitaph "GOOD RIDDANCE".
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: The presence of the ghosts in the mansion causes the lights to surge and dim wildly.
  • Enfant Terrible: Dennis was a preteen Pyromaniac who burned down his father's business, and started the house fire that killed his entire family (and himself). He returns as an Undead Child with pyrokinetic powers to haunt Sid.
  • Evil-Detecting Cat: Allison's cat senses that something is seriously wrong with Harris as soon as he returns from the cemetery. It takes one sniff, hisses and flees.
  • Footprints of Muck: When Kira's body goes missing, Harris and the others follow a set of bloody bare footprints walking away from the room.
  • Golf Clubbing: When Harris first suspects someone is in his house, he grabs a golf club as a weapon when he goes to investigate.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: After the wake, Sid (who missed the funeral) insists on breaking into the cemetery to say his farewells to Devon personally. Harris and Kira follow to keep him out of trouble. They fail, even if they don't realize it for a while.
  • Grave Robbing: The protagonists break into the cemetery and dig up the remains of those haunting them, so they can rebury them and lay them to rest properly.
  • Horror Hates a Rulebreaker: The protagonists draw the wrath of three angry ghosts by dancing on their graves during a drunken wake for their friend; having been encouraged to do so by a mysterious poem they found on their friend's grave.
  • Jump Scare: Sid gets separated from the rest of group and locked in a classroom. When the lights go out, he uses the lowlight setting on the video camera to look around the room, only to have Dennis's face loom up suddenly in the viewfinder.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Exes Harris and Kira share a drunken kiss in the cemetery just before the unfortunate grave-dancing incident. While minor in the overall scheme of things, it does place additional stress of the group when Sid later tells Harris's wife Allison about it.
  • Last Disrespects: In a moment of Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, Harris, Kira and Sid decide to dance on the graves of the Dishonored Dead as a way of celebrating life. This turns out to be a really bad idea.
  • Libation for the Dead: During the impromptu wake in the graveyard, Sid pours a large measure of booze on to Devin's grave.
  • Man on Fire: Happens to Sid Vance when the pyromaniac ghost sets the entire room ablaze.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Allison is uncomfortable around her husband Harris's former girlfriend Kira, whom Harris is still good friends with. The situation becomes even more tense when Allison learns that Harris and Kira kissed during the alcohol-fueled wake in the cemetery.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The protagonists dig up the physical remains of the ghosts—almost getting killed in the process—so they can rebury the bones and lay the ghosts to rest. However, after reburying the bones, the ghosts return, even angrier than before. It is then that Frances reveals that she stole the skulls before the bones were buried so that the ghosts would hang around and she could properly document the existence of the supernatural.
  • Paranormal Investigation: When the hauntings start, Sid contacts Vincent Crochet and his assistant Frances; parapsychologists from the local university who are looking for proof of an actual haunting. Unfortunately for them, they discover it.
  • Playing with Fire: The ghost that is haunting Sid is a child pyromaniac who now possesses pyrokinetic powers.
  • Poltergeist: Emma starts off haunting Harris like this, knocking, opening and closing doors, playing the piano and so forth. She doesn't stay low key for long.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: After Kira is murdered, Emma's ghost possesses her body and uses it to physically attack the survivors with an axe.
  • Product Placement: A Cheerwinenote  vending machine is very prominently and repeatedly visible in the hallway of the parapsychologist's facility.
  • Pyromaniac: Sid is haunted by the ghost of a child pyromaniac who was responsible for the housefire that killed his entire family. As a ghost, he possesses pyrokinetic powers.
  • Sadist: Kira is being haunted by the ghost of Judge William Langer, an honored man who was admired by the entire community and died peacefully. Upon his death, they found journals he wrote, which tell of his fetish with sadism and masochism. He would lock women up in cages and tie them with masks over their faces, and eventually kill them, after brutally raping them.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Young Pyromaniac Dennis killed his parents, and the rest of his family, when he burned down the family home. However, he was trapped in the house and died in the blaze as well. He returns as a ghost with pyrokinetic abilities.
  • Tempting Fate: Frances says "I thinks she's gone". Less than a second later, she gets an axe to the spine from the very much not gone Emma.
  • Slashed Throat: Kira is murdered by the ghost slitting her throat, but she remains defiant to the end.
  • Teaser-Only Character: The film opens with a young woman being attacked by an invisible assailant and then hanged, dropping a mysterious black envelope. Then the screen goes black and a 'One Year Later' caption appears before the screen fades in on Crescent View Cemetery. The woman is never referenced again. The black envelope does appear, however.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Frances decides that the most rational and sensible option when it comes to being subjected to a haunting by a group of malevolent, pissed off spirits who clearly harbor murderous intent is not to return their bones and instead steal their skulls and hide them so she can gather hard evidence of the paranormal. She is brutally killed by one of said ghosts shortly after confessing this.
  • To Absent Friends: After the wake, Harris, Kira and Sid adjourn to a bar to remember Devon privately and celebrate his life.
  • Undead Child: One of the three ghosts that winds up haunting the protagonists is Dennis, a young homicidal Pyromaniac.