The Gravedancers (2006) – Rated R
“A heartfelt Irish wake for an old friend accidentally awakens three ghosts — a rapist, an ax murderer and a pint-sized pyromaniac — who wreak havoc on the drunken revelers who danced on their graves: Harris (Dominic Purcell), Allison (Clare Kramer) and Kira (Josie Maran). Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo and Megahn Perry star in this horrific tale of cause and effect from director Mike Mendez (The Convent).”
“This night you breathe while they cannot so dance ye soul on their resting spot”
I really loved the idea behind After Dark’s Horrorfest (8 Films to Die For). Each year they would release the best independent and/or foreign horror movies – movies that might not otherwise get a release. I caught several of the first set during the run and thoroughly enjoyed them even though they varied quite a bit in quality. Unfortunately the quality quickly ran downhill and it seems to have just become another Direct to DVD label.
As an example contrast the quality of the following five films (one from each of their years) – Husk, Lake Mungo, Slaughter, Crazy Eights (starring Traci Lords), and Dark Ride with ones they missed out on – independent films such as Tucker & Dale versus Evil and Red State and foreign films like Dead Snow, Trollhunter, and The Horde. It’s not that the Horrorfest films are bad (most are enjoyable if not memorable) but it was supposed to be a showcase for the best in independent/foreign horror and it just isn’t.
Having said that, I found The Gravedancers to be quite entertaining. The scriptwriters found a reason why poltergeist activity would escalate. I always wondered why in these films the ghost would start by moving small objects and ever so slowly work their way up to real mayhem. If you have that kind of power, why start so small?
There are still quite a few nits to pick (sidebar: you do understand that nitpicking refers to lice right?). The opening scene is completely unnecessary in light of the rest of the film (and actually undercuts the final scene). The setup is very contrived (Sid sneaks carefully into a graveyard on a rainy night and yet brings a boombox?). They don’t dance on their friend’s grave – they happen to wander over to where the state buries criminals and the insane before they start dancing. Is there really a parapsychology department at any college?
Still, the story is different, fun and scary here and there. Sorry Insidious – the idea that a person is haunted and not the house was not new even with this film. My favorite part of the film though is how awesomely creepy the ghosts look. There is a great 360 degree shot towards the end of the film (no spoilers). The special effects at the climax are a tad over the top, pulling this from suspenseful over to fun.
Dominic Purcell is one of those TV actors who hasn’t quite made it. He is good-looking, buff, likeable and a decent actor but hasn’t shown enough charisma to be a star (though he has anchored both the Prison Break and John Doe TV series). Clare Kramer is good here as Allison Mitchell but the role is not nearly as meaty or memorable as her hilarious turn as Glory in season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Josie (Van Helsing) Maran is fine as the unstable and tormented Kira as is Marcus Thomas as Sid. Tcheky Karyo adds some acting chops as paranormal investigator Vincent Cochet. Stuntwoman Samantha MacIvor gets to play Nurse Jenny in addition to her normal chores.
People Watch: The haunted woman in the opening scene is played by Oakley Stevenson, the director’s wife.