The Gravedancers (2006)

When an old friend dies in a car accident, Harris (Dominic Purcell) returns to his hometown to attend the funeral. Getting together with two of his old buddies, Sid and Kira, they end up at the cemetery that night, to say their own private goodbyes. When Sid finds a mysterious letter on a tombstone, he proceeds to read it aloud before the group drunkenly decide to celebrate their friends’ life by dancing on the surrounding graves. Soon after, strange things start to happen and Harris and his wife Allison realise that they have become the victims of a haunting. Digging a little deeper, the three friends consult a paranormal investigator and quickly learn that they are being haunted by the ghosts of an axe murderer, a rapist and an arsonist.

If done well, ghost stories can be the most effectively chilling of any horror sub-genre and for the most part The Gravedancers ticks all the right boxes. Despite a rather elaborate and far-fetched premise, it contains some incredibly creepy scenarios and some excellently realised action sequences.

The acting is thoroughly believable and the actors’ reactions are, for the most part, perfectly timed and realistic, especially considering that most of the time they are reacting to something that isn’t there or to events that they know aren’t really spectral.

The Gravedancers works best when using understated and subtle techniques and to my mind, is only really let down by some poor CGI effects in the finale and a couple of laughable scenes in the second half. The most notable of them is a scene in which Harris is fighting with a re-animated skeleton in a freshly dug grave but which unfortunately looks more like a slightly embarrassed actor shaking a plastic corpse. It’s testament to the tension that is so effectively created in the first half of the movie, that scenes like this don’t do too much to dilute the effects thus far or to detract from the plight of the characters.

When we finally get to see them, the ghosts almost look creepy enough to inhabit an Aphex Twin video although they are a little over-used at times. Whilst chilling in it’s own way, the movie would have benefited from a little more mystery and although the evil spectres are grotesque enough to be nightmare-inducing, the fact that they get more screen time as the events wear on is detrimental to the overall scare factor.

Some of the characters are unsympathetic and clichéd but somehow never annoying so the audience is always able to feel for them. The French paranormal investigator; Vincent Cochet verges on stereotype on more than one occasion but a flick about ghosts wouldn’t quite be complete without one or two cloying characters and a fair few inconsistencies. Relying heavily on the audiences ability to suspend disbelief for the duration, The Gravedancers suffers a little from the storylines’ over reliance on coincidence but still remains an entertaining and capably spooky horror movie.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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