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Movie Review: The Gravedancers

Movie Review: The Gravedancers
Written by Larry Stanley
Published December 18, 2006

Harris (Dominic Purcell) and Allison (Clare Kramer) are a young, attractive couple dealing with all the problems of young, attractive couples. They worry about money, his ex-girlfriend stalking him, him cheating on his wife with the ex-girlfriend, losing friends and being haunted by three ticked off ghosts.

What? That never happens to you? Well, here's what you do. Go get drunk, head over to a cemetery and start dancing on graves at night. But don't tell anyone I sent you.

Harris has gone to the funeral of an old friend when he meets up with two other friends and the three of them decide to have a 'wake' for their deceased buddy. This is a nice idea. But when they are pretty well smashed, one of the guys in the group finds a card on the grave and reads it. Realizing that the words form a cadence, he reads the card aloud.

Folks, there are a lot of horror movie rules — don't go in the basement, and stuff like that. Here is another one: If you find a strange card in a graveyard, don't read the stupid thing out loud. Try to remember that.

So, now we have three vengeful spirits after our daring couple and the other two clowns from the graveyard.

So our modern couple are now dealing with a jealous woman who murdered her lover with an axe and then died several decades ago. Just what every man needs, a dead woman with an axe who has the hots for him. Yes, now she is fixated on our hero and wants him as her boy toy. She is joined in her fun time delights by the spirit of a ten-year-old boy who burned to death in a fire he started and a psychotic rapist who would kidnap and torture women, sometimes letting them starve to death after he used them.

We are not talking about The Three Stooges here, folks. Director Mike Mendez has pulled ideas from films like 13 Ghosts, Hell House and Burnt Offerings, all without copying them. He has taken their influence, the thing that made them such classic films, and put those into The Gravedancers to give us a classy, old-fashioned ghost story. Yee-haw.

Unlike so many of the movies in the horror genre today (The Beginning, U-Turn, Cabin Fever, or the soon to be discussed Dark Ride) Mendez lets us get to know the characters, he develops them into people we might either like or dislike in real life.
He builds a plot (Get it? Grave? Plot? Never mind...) in the first part of the film and in the second starts tossing stuff at us to keep us off balance. Great work. In fact, he does not take too long to get things going, what with creaking doors and pianos that literally play by themselves.

We are soon joined by a pair of paranormal investigators (Tchéky Karyo, who dang near steals the show, and Megahn Perry), who try to track and stop the evil spirits who have one lunar cycle (a month) to take their vengeance for being pulled back from death. Good news, only 30 days. Bad news, they get stronger each night.

The make-up was quite well done, using mostly older style work and the special effects were really good, and done almost totally without crappy CGI, using make-up, screen mattes and body molds, which I think makes for a better film.

This is one of the best in this genre. It has great pacing, humor in the right places, just enough T&A to keep you motivated without actually watching people hump their way across a screen, and more than enough things to make you snuggle up closer to the person you're watching it with. Which could be good or bad, I guess. For me, one of the things I truly loved was the house where the ghost hunters live. Eerie, dark, foreboding, just the sort of place I would like to live in. And across from a cemetery to boot. I love old houses like that, and hope to own one someday. Don't worry, I know how to fight zombies.

All in all, a first class film worthy of being on my list of the top 25 horror films made since 1970. I could stand to own it.

Tags: dominic purcell, the gravedancers
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