US (dir. Mike Mendez)
Cast: Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran, Clare Kramer, Marcus Thomas, Megahn Perry, Oakley Stevenson
Synopsis: Harris, Kira, and Sid are college friends who reunite for the funeral of their good friend Devin. A night of drinking ultimately leads to a trip to the cemetery, where the trio bids a final goodbye to Devin before finding a strange card on a gravestone. Written on the card is a song, which the three drunken friends sing while dancing on the nearby graves. Little do they know that the song is actually an ancient curse, and that by invoking it they’ve condemned one another to a month of haunting, the final outcome of which could very well be death. Eventually it is revealed that the ancient curse woke three psychopaths from their eternal slumber and that these three ghosts will stop at nothing to take Harris, Kira, and Sid back to the other side with them. Two investigators try to help Harris, Kira, Sid, and Harris’ wife, Allison, thwart the ghosts and survive. The question is: Will they make it?
Review: It’s difficult to watch a movie that gets progressively worse over a 90 minute period of time. You start out watching the movie with an “okay, let’s see how this pans out” attitude. The plot seems alright, there’s an interesting story, the characters are generally likable, and even the performances aren’t all that bad, in fact, they’re pretty darn good for the most part, then, seemingly out of nowhere, the movie starts going downhill. The plot loses steam, the story starts getting way too out there for its own good, the characters start acting like idiots and everything seems to fall apart completely. “The Gravedancers” is an example of that type of movie.
I’ve gotten used to After Dark Horrorfest films being either “hit”, “miss”, or “meh”. I went into “The Gravedancers” with high expectations because I had heard some pretty rave reviews about it – and for about the first half of the movie, yeah, I agreed with those reviews. It was pretty decent for an indie picture and actually kind of scary, and not in the lame, jump-scare every 10 minutes kind of way. I’ll admit that as soon as the basic premise of the plot was revealed (a group of friends dance on graves and end up being haunted by the occupants of the graves), I was kind of iffy. Usually movies that start out with these kinds of wacky supernatural elements are ones involving teenagers or on the odd occasion, 20-somethings, so with the characters being in their early to mid-30s I was pretty surprised. However, despite the fact that this movie features an older age group, the supernatural elements still manage to work. I’ll be honest (don’t laugh!), despite the movie’s title, I really didn’t think this movie had anything to do with literal dancing on graves.
The opening scene was pretty reminiscent of “Stay Alive”, so in terms of horror I was half-expecting most of the good stuff to happen off screen or, to be honest, not at all. Luckily, things pick up in a big way until the movie hits a metaphorical brick wall. After dancing on graves after a dead friend’s wake, a group of 30-somethings begins experiencing increasingly violent hauntings courtesy of the dead folks whose graves they danced upon. There’s a rapist ghost, a pyromaniac ghost (though poltergeists would be a more fitting description), an axe murderer ghost and there’s even stuff like this (see below), so you know this film is delivering, at least from the beginning to the approximate mid-point, in terms of horror.
And since “The Gravedancers” is indie, the scares were pretty effective considering the budget, until the, sigh, floating skull head finale that very nearly ruined the whole film altogether and obliterated any chance of a respectable ending.
Things start getting a bit out there when the friends consult some paranormal investigators to help them with their situation. The friends and the paranormal investigators all end up shacked up in a large mansion in the film’s final act to avoid the vengeful ghosts whose haunting peaks on the final day of the curse brought on by the grave dancing incident. A love quadrangle develops between the friends and one of the friends’ wives, leading to an actual “time out” moment in the film where two women work out their differences in between ghostly attacks. Unfortunately, I didn’t really care too much about that turn of events to actively pay any attention to any of the drama. Oh, and if you know who the actress Clare Kramer is (she played that fucking annoying bitch demon, Glory, on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show) she’s in this as Allison, the wife of one of the gravedancers, worth mentioning since I was starting to wonder where she disappeared to after 2002.
At least the movie scores high in the originality department, because I honestly can’t say I’ve seen to many movies involving the repercussions of dancing on graves. The ending and, well, pretty much everything after the half-way point is utter shit, but the movie is still pretty good despite even that stupid fucking floating skull head (seriously, how were we supposed to take that seriously?). It’s an interesting entry into the After Dark Horrorfest, but there are better entries than this.