Review: The Gravedancers

Posted by Peter Hall - November 20th 2006 @ 4:00 am

Directed by Mike Mendez, 2006
Written by Brad Keene, Chris Skinner

The Gravedancers

Finally a movie that reminds horror of the fact that ghosts don’t have to be Asian with long black hair to get your blood pumping.

Dominic Purcell plays Harris, the dull spearhead of a group of old college buddies reunited by a friend’s funeral.  With a few drinks in them and some ritualistic instructions found by happenstance, dancing on graves seems like the best course of action.  But corpses don’t like it when you mock them with that hip jumpin’ and jivin’.  Especially when the toe-tapped corpses lay in the undesirable section of the graveyard reserved for the usual suspects of social deviants: specifically a sadist judge, a murdering housewife, and a pyromaniac child.

The hauntings begin with innocent, but unexplainable activity around the house.  Soon enough, however, one of the friends contacts a TAPS like investigation team who pinpoint the connection between the instructions, the dancing, and the graves they danced upon.  Fortunately for the haunted, the ghost’s must be lazy, for the curse only lasts a month.  However, fortunately for the viewer the poltergeists grow in strength as the timespan narrows, making for some visuals that drift between the scary and the goofy, but always in a fun, horror-coaster kind of way.

Oddly enough, the best acting comes way of the sexy Josie Maran.  She sheds her model image more than once and proves worthy of future screaming affairs.  It’s a delight to see Tchéky Karyo as the paranormal investigator, but past himself and his assistant, the rest of the cast phones it in.  I’m not sure who decided Dominic Purcell was a good actor, but he pulls off his tool-ish lawyer part as well as any muscle head should be expected to.

Mike Mendez’s work with the actor’s aside, he can lay on the genre tracks when it is called for.  Some of the segments, especially as the ghosts approach full strength, are wild.  The design of the ghosts is original and sharp, resulting in a smile at their function and some wide eyes at their appearance.  Easily the best aspect of the film and possibly the best ghost design in years.

Word of caution, the ending is more than a tad goofy.  But if you’ve hung on till that point, it won’t be anything deal breaking.

While not exactly a colossal feat of strength, The Gravedancers is built with enough muscle to run the gauntlet and come out bruised, but not entirely beaten.  Not nerve killing on the whole, but with some damned creepy looking ghosts.  No moments of divine inspiration, but enough originality to keep things interesting.  It’s a tug-of-war film that starts off predictable, but yanks the flag into its court midway, defining its own rules and becoming more than a standard ghostly knock off.

Certainly worth a watch down the line.  And the more drinks in you and the more friends to share them with, the better it’ll be.


rss 10 comments
  1. andy sell
    November 20th, 2006 | 5:09 am | #1

    sweet. i’m seeing this one tomorrow.

    Penny Dreadful is WORTHLESS. Period.

    Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horrors is hilarious, but loses steam toward the end.

    and man oh man. I don’t know if you’ve seen Severance yet… but HOLY SHIT IS THAT FUCKER GOOD.

  2. andy sell
    November 21st, 2006 | 4:10 pm | #2

    Saw it last night, and i’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you.

    I thought that it had bright moments, but overall was pretty worthless.

    bad dialogue. stiff performances by actors with zero charisma (excepting of course, Tcheky Karyo). some completely unnecessary plot devices. bland death sequences. the ghost makeup was cool, but not nearly present enough or in the right spots. a few great comedic moments though and the ghost characters themselves were refreshing.

  3. November 21st, 2006 | 4:25 pm | #3

    Fair enough. I can’t really argue, because I agree with all the weak points, but for me it (eventually, mind you) tipped the scales from mediocrity to harmless entertainment.

    Southern Comfort joined my bloodstream at the time, as well. That’s probably worth mentioning.

  4. November 27th, 2006 | 10:51 pm | #4

    I was massively disappointed with The Gravedancers. The whole premise seemed a bit on the silly side, and while the ghosts were unusual and even somewhat inspired, the CGI-overloaded conclusion was too much to swallow. Still, I think Mendez has grown considerably as a director, and I’m anxious to see what he does next.

    BTW — Good review.

  5. November 28th, 2006 | 7:21 pm | #5

    Well now I’m bummed you guys didn’t like it. Not that I think it truly deserves unwaivering praise, but because I hate giving a recommendation when it ends badly.

  6. Matt W
    June 23rd, 2008 | 5:09 pm | #6

    FINALLY got a chance to see this movie (a nod of appreciation to Wal-Mart’s bargain bin), and it was the movie I wanted to see when it first came out. The image of the ghosts creeped the ever loving hell out of me. I dunno why, the fact that their smile never really changes, ‘mentally’ told me that it was just a mask, and it should seem less ‘life’-like. But the more I looked at them, the more creeped out I became.

    I agree with Peter. The ending had me laughing over the absurdity of it. I honestly thought a plug for a new theme park ride at Universal Studios was coming. But I found it pretty enjoyable. Although the deaths were a bit uninspired, nothing original or frightening. But I’ll agree to the solid B rating. Now to find a copy of Wicked Little Things and The Abandoned. (I’m obviously behind on the Horrorfest movies, but $20 a DVD when they came out was a bit too much.)

  7. R.J. Sayer
    June 24th, 2008 | 5:39 am | #7

    THE ABANDONED is awesome.

    i got through 12 minutes of WICKED LITTLE THINGS and will be good and fucking goddamned if i see minute number thirteen.

  8. R.J. Sayer
    June 24th, 2008 | 5:40 am | #8

    also, SoCo is bullshit and destroys all movie-reviewing capability formerly inherent in the consciousness.

    it’s a clinically proven fact.

  9. Sean
    June 24th, 2008 | 7:19 am | #9

    Yeah, I really liked The Abandoned. But that, and Dark Ride (Which I’m probably totally screwing up the collections) are the only ones i’ve seen, and are interested in seeing. Dark Ride killed it for me.

  10. December 15th, 2011 | 2:09 pm | #10

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