Directed by Craig Efros
I’m a skeptic to the core and a horror aficionado through and through, so when such a boastful claim as “the most frightening film you’ll see all year” is made by the creators of Hollows Grove, I’ve GOT to jump in with both feet and see if a statement is verified and substantiated. I know that every person’s fear response is different and what will make one person wet their Underoos might not even raise a hair on the back of another’s neck. All that I could hope to ask for with each and every passing film that likes to make these allegations is a nice change of scenery and not another one of those “haunted asylum/orphanage films“… oh, crap.
Looking at the movie from the outside, you’d get the inclination that this is going to be another run-of-the-mill found footage display that attempts to freak the viewer out with loud bangs, flash scares, and an annoying cast that ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to drop a camera in order to save themselves, regardless of the peril they’re facing at the time. If you think for one moment that Hollows Grove opted to go that route and follow the blueprint of so many haunted institution films set out before it, then I’m terribly sorry to say that you’ve nailed it directly on the head. Allow me to dissect this carbon copy that fails to deliver the goods on a number of tiers.
The movie, directed by first-timer (outside of one short) Craig Efros, gives us a look into the Hollows Grove orphanage, which is supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in the U.S. and will be the subject of the latest episode of the Spirit Paranormal Investigation Team (S.P.I.T.- no, I’m not kidding) and their reality TV ghost hunting show.
Harold Maxwell (Matthew Carey) tags along with his friends on the team as they ready themselves to patrol the halls of the abandoned structure to see if they can collect evidence of any residual hauntings. The footage used was supposedly from Maxwell’s camera, and at times you get the feeling that the whole ghost hunting prospect is a cash-cow for the team with no real desire to take this stuff seriously. The movie takes a bit of time to get started, and we’re treated to a massive miscast in the film’s start as movie and TV veteran Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump, “24”) plays FBI Agent Jones, who is in charge of the case we’re about to witness. I had no idea that the feds would jump into a case regarding a missing ghost hunting crew, considering everything else they’ve got to look after; in any event, he is only used for about two minutes of actual screen time, so if you love the former Benjamin Buford Blue (Bubba), then you’ll be sorely disappointed.
As we’re on the “why was he even in the movie?” train, another icon is led to storyline sacrifice, and that is Lance Henriksen himself, playing Bill, who works on the show as a props director. His time on camera is amusing but FAR too short.
Also, one of the more irritating performances that I’ve personally seen on film in a while belongs to Matt Doherty in his role of show star Tim. His actions are the stuff of someone you’d like to pound into the ground – take the normal performance of Paul Giamatti, give him about 12-15 cups of high-octane coffee, raise his vocal levels a few octaves, and voila! Instant vexation towards any movie-watching experience.
All right – on to the visuals! We’re used to the routine shaky-cam vista that only a found footage film can offer, and while this is no different, there are at least a few breaks with some stationary cams every now and then, giving your flip-flopped innards a chance to settle. Night-vision also has its time in the sun (or the dark) when the going gets hectic for our crew of spook-spotters, and outside of a couple of certifiable “oh shit!” moments, I honestly cannot say that there is a difference between the Grove and movies like Session 9, Grave Encounters, or the myriad of spectrally haunted establishment films that have come before it.
Was I let down regarding the final product? Yes. Was I mildly amused at the idea of how full of crap the crew knew they were about their show and its production? Yes. Could I honestly recommend this to someone and make a statement that this movie will be the scariest thing they’ve seen all year? Don’t hold your breath. When it comes to investigating these halls, leave the doors locked and move along, please – this building was condemned for a reason, and that reason is justified.