The movie starts off showing a scene with a woman alone in a room, who is attacked by something neither she nor we can see. She gets hanged in the stairways, and a black envelope drops to the floor. We then fast forward to a year later, when a group of friends (Sid, Kira, and Harris) have attended a funeral and decides to go drinking afterwards. Drunk and stupid, they decide to do something silly that can only be brought on by drunken stupidity: they first break into the Crescent View Cemetery. Their original plan was to just say their final goodbyes to the recently departed, but Sid finds a black envelope amongst some of the flowers on the grave. Inside is a poem which urges them to be joyful and to dance upon the graves. And of course, since they’ve already gotten quite sloshed by now, they think this sounds like an excellent idea in order to celebrate life. And so….they start dancing on graves…
Later, mysterious things start happening to the friends. Harris and his wife Allison start hearing strange sounds at night, and suddenly have creepy visions. Kira starts getting attacked by an entity that bites and assaults her, and Sid experiences unexpected fires. Eventually they get in contact with some paranormal investigators, who thinks that they awoke something when they danced on the graves.
The Gravedancers is directed by Mike Mendez, who also directed the cheesy spider-creature-feature flick Big Ass Spider. It starts off in a very routine-like fashion, where we get an ominous start showing us that something sinister is going on, followed by some people making a stupid mistake, and then shit starts hitting the fan. You needn’t see many supernatural horror movies in order to recognize this formula, but what matters is how it spins the movie around it. So, how does The Gravedancers do in that regard? Well…
First off, the story isn’t half-bad. It’s not very original, but it works, and I actually liked the revealed reason for why they get haunted in the way they do. Much of the story is simple but it’s not a completely hackneyed entry into the supernatural horror genre, it does have a few things of its own. When it comes to scenery, I gotta give some props with using actual locations for the filming. The filmmakers sought out houses that were going to be demolished/burned (in South Carolina, it’s common to burn down abandoned/condemned houses) and asked if they could film there before they were burned down. The location for the hospital, however, was not an abandoned place, but actually a convalescent home (a place where people are recovering from illness or medical treatments). During the shooting at that place, the filmmakers received numerous complaints about the loud screaming and dangerous stunts. Not sure how shooting a horror film in a place where people are supposed to recover and need some quiet and peace was considered a good idea, but what the hey…you take what you can get, I guess.
Regarding the effects and ghosts, they are…incredibly cheesy, actually. There’s even a scene with a giant flying disembodied head chasing a car, something that would be perfect in a Ghostbusters movie (or a Goosebumps episode), but considering how the movie takes itself somewhat seriously, this scene actually caught me a bit off-guard. However, it was said that the Disney ride The Haunted Mansion was a major inspiration to the film and design of the ghosts, so that explains a few things…
While The Gravedancers does come off a bit as a run-of-the-mill supernatural horror flick, it does have its moments, I gotta give it that. It’s not great, it’s typical B-grade horror, and its (unintentional or not) cheese-factor is actually one of its redeeming factors.
Director: Mike Mendez
Writers: Brad Keene, Chris Skinner
Country & year: USA, 2006
Actors: Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran, Clare Kramer, Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo, Megahn Perry, Martha Holland, Oakley Stevenson, Samantha MacIvor, Jack Mulcahy, Jim McKeny, Geneva Avarett-Short, Bob McHone