US (dir. Brian Pulido)
Cast: Clare Grant, Jillian Murray, Bill Moseley, Randy Blythe, Tony Todd
Synopsis: Megan and Abby Graves are inseparable sisters that couldn’t be less alike. Megan just graduated ASU with a marketing degree. She’s a self-assured, naturally attractive rock chick with a black belt that she likes to use. Abby just barely graduated high school. She’s a cute, Hot Topic Goth who’s caustic and afraid of her own shadow. They share one thing: a life-long obsession with comics and pop culture. Simply put, they are beautiful geeks. In a few days, Megan will start a new job at in New York. To send her off in style, the sisters go on a wild, pop culture bender that includes a trip to uncharted Arizona in search of a kitschy roadside attraction. Instead, Megan and Abby happen on Skull City Mine, a weather-beaten, abandoned mine town converted into a self-guided tour. But Skull City harbors terrible, vexing secrets. It appears to be haunted. Its caretakers are murderous. Victims’ souls are ripped from their bodies right before their eyes, and that’s only the beginning. When Megan suffers a near mortal wound, Abby must save her sister, but to do so, she must unlock the mystery of Skull City alone. Can Abby defeat the threats of Skull City and rescue Megan or are they doomed like all the other tourists before them?
Review: And at the bottom of the 2010 Afterdark Horrorfest lies this giant turd of a film which I’m most definitely dubbing as worst of Horrorfest 4. “The Graves” is a great example of how amateur directing, a low budget, and one fucking terrible script can combine to create a perfect shit-storm of… well… crap. I have nothing against first-time directors making an attempt to hone their craft with little money to spare, and I certainly have nothing against far-fetched plots in horror movies (because, let’s face it, so many of them are pretty out there), but when blended together into “The Graves”, the results are embarrassingly bad – so bad that I would suggest you stay the hell away from this crap fest and go watch something better.
In the movie’s defense, the acting isn’t downright atrocious by any means, Bill Moseley and Clare Grant provide some pretty solid performances. The only bad acting at all comes from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe who, for some godforsaken reason, decided that he absolutely had to be in this film regardless of how insignificant the role. His character is basically some random redneck religious nut bar who dies within maybe 15 minutes of being introduced. Couldn’t they just have given him a job composing the score or stocking up the food services table with barbecue chicken? (I’m not being facetious with the chicken comment, apparently he’s a really good cook). I think he maybe has like 10 minutes of screen time and a handful of lines that could have easily been given to any of the extras to read, but for some reason his “performance” warrants a credit on the opening credits reel and even a spot on the poster. Speaking of the poster, could they have photo-shop enlarged Clare Grant’s breasts any more? They’re practically bursting off the poster! When the poster has to go that overboard with the tittays, it’s almost a sure sigh the movie is poor quality, or a soft core porn… or both!
The film also boasts some pretty impressive opening and closing credits presented with some cool artwork, weird Southern sounding music and a really wicked font for all the names. Sure it’s just the credits, but they turn out to be more entertaining than the actual movie, and that’s kind of sad.
The movie is basically two girls (Abby and Megan) running around in the desert. Most of the scenes begin, or end with, Abby and Megan watching someone’s soul (and parts of their face – more on this later) get eaten by some unseen entity, then they shield their eyes and ears and when it’s all over, they look around for a place to run and hide. This happens about 287,482,749 times during the course of this movie, to the point where I thought to myself (jokingly, of course) that the DVD scene selection must have at least 5 scenes titled “Abby and Meg Look For A Place To Run and Hide”. I hope to God I’m not actually right.
The premise of this movie is that two sisters are on a road trip as part of one last hurrah before the bigger-breasted, and older one, Megan, goes off to live in New York. The point of their road trip is to visit kitschy roadside attractions, like the world’s largest thermometer, but instead they end up in some dead end town visiting the Skull City Mines, an allegedly haunted ghost town. This premise reminded me a lot of “House of 1000 Corpses” (coincidentally, a movie also starring Bill Moseley) with the whole “let’s visit ass-backwards parts of the American Heartland in a search for roadside attractions run by rednecks”, unfortunately Skull City Mine isn’t as fun as Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen and worst of all, the tour through the mines is self-guided (boring). It turns out the townspeople are religious nuts who believe that sacrificing tourists to their “saviour”, some bizarre unseen demonic entity that possesses people via… scent, will help their crops (“Children of the Corn”, anyone?).
Of course, you never get to see the demonic entity (I guess that would have been too expensive), you just sort of hear this loud whooshing sound coupled with buzzing flies and a flash of bright light every time the demon claims another soul from a dying person. The effects are laughably bad. Seriously. And to bring your attention back to the poster yet again, notice the tag line: ‘Death is the least of your problems’. Considering that the demon sucks out your soul and parts of your face while you are dying , I would figure death would be on the top of someone’s problem list in this movie.
In actuality, a lot of the special effects are terrible or just simply unnecessary. One of my biggest qualms was the use of digital blood splatter, even in scenes where kills happen just off screen in pan-away shots (which happens a lot). I mean, it would have looked so much more effective with some fake blood, which I’m sure would have cost less than digital blood, so why didn’t they just use it instead? There’s also a nose-biting scene that trumps “Hostel II”‘s nose-biting scene in both cheesiness and implausibility (I’d imagine it would be extremely difficult to bite someone’s nose off, even if you were in close proximity, in one swift chomp).
As mentioned, a lot of kills happen off screen. In fact, they pretty much all do. You also never get to see the demon and there’s even a part where Abby ends up unconscious in a shallow ditch for absolutely no reason at all. I had to rewind a bit to see if there was even any explanation for how and why she got there after running away from Bill Moseley’s psycho redneck character, but there’s no explanation whatsoever. Bad editing, may-hap?
There are a lot of hilarious moments in this film which are actually at times, pretty embarrassing to watch, because I’m fairly certain they weren’t intentional. At one point, a male tourist who briefly teams up with Meg and Abby, attempts to evade psycho, shotgun-toting, Bill Moseley by, um, running into him. Of course he gets his head blown off like a millisecond later. At another point, Meg tries running away from Bill Moseley by running up a gravel mountain, only to slide down like 5 or 6 times while he waits patiently at the base. It got pretty annoying to have to watch it over and over again.
There’s also a horrible scene where, in order to, I guess, show the audience how smell is the route of demonic possession, the girls end up getting a whiff of demon B.O. and enter into a biting frenzy which is made all the more lame by the actresses intentionally avoiding any actual biting.
Even the music is bad. The score sounds like something you would hear as background music while waiting in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park. It’s simply awful. Also the ending made little to no sense because we were under the impression that the girls had fled to the small town of Unity (where they were re-captured by Randy’s character, the psycho reverend, and the nutty religious townspeople) but there’s a final shot of the girls walking out of the Skull City Mines (??). I also felt queasy when the movie ended on one of those “set-up for a sequel” notes, but on the plus side, that proved to be the most terrifying part of the film: the prospect of “The Graves: Part 2”. Please Brian Pulido, don’t make any more films.