The Graves (2010)

During the Great Plague of London in 1665, holding a bunch of flowers to your nose was thought to protect against the disease. In 2010, covering your nose to avoid a bad smell can apparently prevent you from becoming possessed by a demon. Well done, everyone.

The Graves was part of the After Dark Horrorfest 2010, a now annual celebration of low-budget, low-quality horror movies. Virtually all of these movies are unwatchably shit (the exception being The Hamiltons, which is rather good) so, in order to market this low-end slop, they've been bundled together and called a festival. Since there have now been four After Darks, it's apparently a tactic that works. It's just depressing, really, because the fact that there's a market for these films means they'll keep getting made, and the existence of The Hamiltons means that I'll keep watching them, forever hoping to find another diamond amongst the shit.

So, The Graves. The "Graves" of the title aren't holes for burying dead people in, but rather a pair of sisters, Meg and Abby. We're introduced to them filming one another in a Forbidden Planet style comics and memorabilia shop: they live in Arizona, but Meg is about to move to New York, so the sisters decide to take a road trip together, as one last hurrah. Amusingly, they decide to go and see the world's largest thermometer but get lost and end up in Skull City, a mining ghost town.

(Googling facts about this film is actually way, way more entertaining than watching it. Apparently the world's largest thermometer is located in Baker, California. And the Skull City of the movie is actually Vulture City, a real ghost town in Arizona. The Vulture gold mine was discovered in 1863, and at its peak, the city was home to nearly five thousand people. The hanging tree - shown in the movie - was used to hang at least 18 men. The mine was closed in 1942, and the town became a ghost town. A quick Flickr search shows up dozens of photographs o the ghost town - which, incredibly, you really can arrange a self-guided tour of. Googling Vulture City has actually killed the one thing I enjoyed about the film, which was its location and set details, because all of those things were in situ when the film crew showed up. It's testament to the incredible ineptitude of the filmmakers that, despite the wonderful location, they still managed to make a film this bad. But I digress.)

Meg decides that taking a tour of the ghost town would be an awesome way to make the best of getting lost, and so the sisters set off to look around. But almost immediately, they discover that something's horribly wrong: trapped in a tumbledown hut, they're forced to listen as another tourist is brutally murdered by a hammer-wielding, bearded man in dungarees and dark goggles. Bizarrely, after the murder, there's a horrible, deafening, weird noise - but there's no time to dwell on that, because now the goggle-wearing madmen is coming after the Graveses.

Right, and here's the major problem with this movie: its structure is all over the place. The girls manage to dispatch the first killer only for another one to show up, and then another one. Random characters show up just to increase the body count, with no indication of where they might have come from. Plot elements are introduced and then forgotten about for no apparent reason. It's impossible to gauge how long the film might be while you're watching it, or how far through you might be, because there's no structure to events, there's no sense of escalation or an approaching climax. It's just a string of events that don't even entirely make sense. Meg cuts her forearm open to make a fake trail of blood to distract the killer, but her wound is gone in the following scene. Abby seems to have died (off screen) but her lifeless body gets up again after a little while. The townspeople appear to be part of some bizarre cult, but the religious imagery doesn't go anywhere. Horror movie icons Bill Moseley and Tony Todd show up, but while Moseley gamely gives it a go, strapping on a plastic pig's snout (for no apparent reason), Todd is clearly just phoning it in. The film is just a succession of stuff, with very little thought given to what any of this stuff has to do with any of the other stuff in the movie. Characterisation is virtually non-existent: the girls, at the beginning of the movie, are unconvincing goths who are obsessed with comics (if you've not done so yet, have a close look at the movie poster, and try not to punch anything once you've read it) but that lasts for five minutes and is then irrelevant.

The other main issue is that the acting is dreadful. Just dreadful. The two girls are passable to begin with, when they're just messing around and hanging out, but as soon as the tension attempts to ratchet up, it all falls apart. They stand awkwardly, deliver their lines awkwardly, and generally aren't believeable in the slightest. When anyone gets possessed (by inhaling the stench of, er, oh, I dunno, something) they demonstrate that they're possessed by tossing their heads about and gnashing their teeth. The first time Meg becomes possessed, it isn't even clear that that's what happening. She's just ... snapping at the air with her teeth, and going "raaaaarrrghh" a bit. It's ridiculous.

And then there's the CGI. Oh, the CGI. It's ugly stuff. The ghosts look ridiculous, and the flies look worse. The only thing that looks good in this movie is the location and, as previously discussed, that's got nothing to do with the filmmakers. There's nothing clever about this movie, nothing inspired, nothing interesting. There's just no point in it existing. And to add insult to injury, there's a fucking sequel in production.

IMDb link

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