The Graves (2009)
Directed by master comic book maestro Brian Pulido in his first foray into feature films, The Graves is, unfortunately for someone with such a prolific background in horror comics, a disgraceful mess.
The story follows the two Graves sisters as they embark on a road trip which is supposed to broaden little sister Abby’s horizons before big sister Megan goes off to start a new life in New York. Stopping off at a diner on a stretch of dusty highway, they soon realise that they’re lost and are persuaded by a local waitress (A Nightmare On Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss) that they should visit Skull City Mine instead of their intended destination. Once they arrive, their sightseeing trip turns into a fight for survival, as the occupants of Skull City want them dead.
Beginning with some horribly cliché camcorder footage as the girls make a home video as a keepsake, The Graves is a laughably bad experience. The acting, particularly from Clare Grant (a.k.a. Mrs. Seth Green) is shockingly awful and as the movie picks up speed, any semblance of realism is left firmly by the roadside thanks to an array of poor performances from all involved. Only the charismatic Bill Moseley offers anything approaching a decent character and he relishes his part as a murderous hick. The Candyman himself, Tony Todd is at his hammy worst, playing a ridiculously over-the-top Preacher and leaving any self respecting horror fan wondering where he might have misplaced his talent.
The sisters, despite being plucky and self assured (well, one of them is anyway) make the same terrible decisions as every horror movie protagonist that’s gone before them so although we’re promised ass-kicking Goth heroines, we’re actually treated to slightly more concentrated, slightly more cloying versions of the average scream queen. They’re Goths for the Hot Topic generation and sadly, won’t fool anybody that knows any better.
The Graves’ story is wafer thin, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, some of the best films have the simplest of storylines, but the movie suffers from some confusingly convoluted moments that don’t fit the framework. The inclusion of a supernatural element to the story is both unnecessary and also poorly executed consisting mainly of some badly done CGI effects and a deafening screechy noise following each death.
Speaking of the CGI, almost all the blood and gore has been added in post-production and unfortunately, it’s glaringly obvious at every turn. Aside from a couple of inspired moments, including a nasty nose-biting incident, most of the deaths and violence that we see on screen are pretty by-the-book but without the lamentable decision to include so much CGI blood, would have been entertaining and not so frustratingly rage-inducing.
The Graves is redeemed by a suitably grimy psychobilly soundtrack and a brief appearance by horror-punk legends Calabrese in the first five minutes but these things alone cannot make up for the cavalcade of awfulness present elsewhere. It’s a film that has clearly been made by people with a big love for the horror genre and while they obviously understand their audience, they don’t seem to realise that filling a movie with veteran horror actors will please your core audience but not in lieu of anything else to enjoy. If you don’t mind watching a couple of girls in tight vests and jeans running around trying to evade their redneck captors then you could do worse than to watch The Graves. Everyone else should probably avoid.