OCTOBER 4, 2007
Pretty much every time I watch an After Dark release, I mention how it doesn’t live up to the promise of The Gravedancers, which was the first of the eight films that I saw, which resulted in higher expectations for the rest (unfortunately for them). Had I seen Dark Ride first, I’d probably be claiming all of the other 7 the greatest horror films of all time.
The thing I loved about Gravedancers was that it was essentially a kid’s horror movie, but aimed at adults. The plot is something out of Goosebumps, but it’s executed in a manner that doesn’t seem cloying or just plain stupid. Not that the film is taken seriously (the ghostly head monster at the end is certainly proof of that), but it’s very rare to see a horror movie starring people over 30 that isn’t the cerebral or psychological type. Plus, it’s nice to see a movie about people being haunted by long dead folks that has nothing to do with them moving into a house (in fact the premise is pretty original for this type of movie – I can’t think of another one about, well, gravedancing).
Mike Mendez and David Armstrong (who also shot the Saw sequels) have created an extremely nice look for the film, creating a very natural look albeit with lots of high contrast and strong primary colors. For a low budget independent film, this is all the more impressive, as usually the most I expect is an image that isn’t blurry or washed out due to poor digitizing. I’m glad I saw this one in theaters; even if it wasn’t designed for an audience to enjoy as a ride, it would still be a shame to never see a lot of these scenes on a genuine film print.
Tcheky Karyo is in the film. This is pretty much all the recommendation anyone should ever need. He plays the occult expert that always seems to be in town when folks begin getting haunted in horror movies, and he’s a riot. There’s a sight gag involving one of his “research materials” that made me laugh out loud even a 2nd time, and his back and forth with the stars is equally enjoyable. In fact all of the actors are good (even Purcell is a bit more engaged than usual), with the exception of Marcus Thomas, who’s a bit awkward, and seems uncomfortable playing a loser (he was hilarious in Drowning Mona though – one of the most underrated movies of all time).
Even if you don’t like horror, you gotta give props to Mike Mendez and his crew for creating true cinematic history:
If you notice, Dominic Purcell’s shirt is buttoned all the way up. Within minutes it is unbuttoned, as it remains for the rest of the film, but for just one brief moment, we are spared the sight of Purcell’s chest even though he is onscreen. It’s a tradition with the guy throughout all his roles, particularly Prison Break and Primeval, where he has a bare minimum of three buttons done at all times, regardless of the weather or social situation.
The DVD is pretty packed, with behind the scenes stuff, some deleteds, and even the original trailer Mendez shot in order to get funding for the film. And for what I think is the first time, there’s a commentary track for EVERYTHING. Not just the film, even the making of and the trailer have an alternate track. The one for the film is great, as Mendez and composer Joe Bishara invent a drinking game called “Lamp” that is bound to leave you dead of cirrhosis if you play it properly.
Like I said in my Abandoned review, it is utterly baffling that Lionsgate and After Dark would give that film a wide release and not this. Not only is it just as impressive on a technical level (which is more than you can say for some of the others), but it’s far more “audience friendly” than Abandoned, and also plays better in theaters than Nacho Cerda’s film does (which works better at home). Hopefully some of you got the chance to see it, either at Screamfest or at the After Dark festival, but if not, I strongly urge you check it out now.
What say you?