So when I saw some fairly good recommendations for a film called Grave Encounters, I thought I'd check it out.
Honestly, I'm not sure why I bothered.
A small group of film-makers are filming the sixth episode of their amateur ghost-hunting show, Grave Encounters, and decide to film in an abandoned asylum - the twist, they're going to be locked in so they can't leave.
After a few interviews with locals and people familiar with the asylum (including some behind-the-scenes footage that shows them bribing a local itinerant landscaper to make up a spooky story for them) as per the usual format, the group prepare their ghost-hunting equipment and are locked in for the night.
At first, it is all business as usual - we have the usual stereotypes; the butch, brave camera man, the cocky host, a fake medium who, frankly, is really annoying from the get-go, and the token female - and as the group patrol the abandoned corridors, we see them all hamming it up for the camera and trying to capture done half-decent footage that they can use to give their latest show a spooky feel that audiences will love. But then things start to go wrong - both for the cast and for the hapless viewer watching this awful travesty.
Something grabs the hair of the token female, there in the dark, freaking her out. Mysterious noises are heard, and radio communications between the team become unreliable and sporadic. Though no presence is caught on camera, the group soon decide enough is enough end retire to the front entrance to await their release.
Unfortunately for them, the guy supposed to release them at the allotted time, never shows. In desperation, and getting even more freaked out now, the team smash down the door - only to find that it no longer leads outside but instead, to more dark and spooky corridors that twist and turn and that ultimately, either end up leading nowhere or worse, bringing them back around full circle.
With it still appearing full dark outside, despite their watches indicating it should now be daylight, the team realise they are trapped - unable to escape - and are now at the mercy of some very vengeful spirits.
This film escapulates everything that is bad, nay awful, in the found footage genre. The characters are dull, annoying, two-dimensional and the whole plot offers nothing new that has not been done before. The whole 'lost in an abandoned area' angle for example, was done so much better in As above, So below, set deep beneath Paris' famous catacombs. The whole 'spooky noises in the dark' has already been over-done several times in the Paranormal Activity series. And don't even get me started on the dodgy CGI here!!!
Honestly, if you're looking for some late night thrills and spills, you'd do well to avoid this. It truly is bad - one of the worst films of its kind I've seen - and the worst thing is, they even made a sequel!!
This sequel, apparently, does a Blair Witch 2 and treats this film like a movie - with a new cast tracking down the actual asylum this was filmed in so they can repeat the exercise depicted here for real.
Seriously?!? Don't bother.
I've had scarier trips to the bathroom than this - absolutely avoid AT ALL COSTS!
Much better and far more nasty is the short, indie film, Contracted.
Contracted follows the life of a young, very troubled woman over the course of three days after she manages to contract a particularly nasty sexually transmitted infection following a one night stand where she is essentially date raped in the back of a car.
Samantha is a lesbian, or at least she seems to think she is - it seems to be a lot more complicated than that, but she also has a history of taking hard drugs so at first, her mother thinks she is just relapsing and drifting back into bad habits when her daughter starts acting strange.
By the time she realises something is seriously wrong, it's already far too late.
Over three days worth of filming, we, the viewers, watch as Samantha slowly gets worse and worse - her skin begins to feel sore around her stomach area on day one, she begins getting her period a lot harder and heavier than normal, and by day two, her eyes have turned bloodshot and her nails and teeth are starting to fall out along with big clumps of her hair.
The film is essentially the story of one woman's descent into complete bodily shutdown over three days - the sexually transmitted infection appears almost undetectable at first, a doctor she visits puts her feeling rough down to a head cold, but as it quickly becomes apparent, the infection seems to trigger some kind of necrosis; basically causing her body to start to rot away.
It is uncomfortable viewing and certainly made me feel ick in more than a few places, there were even moments where I had to look away even though I knew what was happening - and when a film does that to a hard core horror aficionado like me, you know it must be bad!
The ending is a tad predictable - if you've seen enough of these kind of movies, you know where it's going and that the film can only ever end one way - but the journey there, the important part, is well worth the watch.
I loved it and you know the most important part - it was original and like nothing else I'd ever seen done before.
And you know what, that is probably the strongest recommendation I can give this film.
Full marks to Contracted, 5 out of 5.
Would I watch it again? Hell yes - I'm even looking forward to the sequel, Phase 2...
But thoughts on that later...