Asylum

Grave Encounters 2 (2012)

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I have been meaning to watch Grave Encounters 2 for a while after enjoying the first film. The second film leads on directly from the first, so in order to understand it you really need to have watched the first film. Grave Encounters (2011) follows a film crew for a TV programme headed by Lance Preston who lock themselves inside a haunted asylum. Things go from bad to worse and the whole crew disappear.

Grave Encounters 2 follows Alex, played by Richard Harmon (Continuum) one of the 20million fans who have viewed the first film on YouTube and a film student. After starting a project based on Grave Encounters, queue lots of poor “student” acting, Alex becomes obsessed with proving that the first film is true. The first part of the film is setting the scene and I feel goes on too long with several unnecessary scenes including Alex meeting Lance’s mother which adds nothing to the story.

Finally the film crew get to the asylum after a tip-off from the anonymous blogger DeathAwaits666 who agrees to meet them there and prove that Grave Encounters is true. Upon breaking into the asylum, Alex and his friends are stood up by the blogger but decide to try to contact the spirits using a handy Ouija board (why would anyone ever thing this would be a good idea?) and surprise, surprise,  DeathAwaits666 is actually a demonic entity in the asylum. Now things start to heat up and all hell breaks loose with several evil spirits including a creepy little girl and a long limbed humanoid figure. The actual asylum is up to its old business in the first film with moving walls separating and trapping the group.

Unexpectedly the group run into Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) who has been trapped in the asylum for nine years which has understandably sent him insane. This is where the film gets weird and becomes a film in its own right rather than an imitation of the first film. In his incarceration Lance has discovered a giant red free-standing door, not the most subtle of things which he believes to be the only way out. To get around the fact that we are running out of characters to hold the camera, the asylum now takes it on itself with floating camcorders.

Whilst it is nice to see some progression from the first film, The Vicious Brothers, aka Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, I think it goes off the wall a bit and definitely primes the way for another sequel which is one of my least favourite trends in modern horror films. Grave Encounters 2 is an average film and better than many sequels but isn’t as good as the original.

Rating: 4/5

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Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013)

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Patrick: Evil Awakens is a remake of a 1978 film about a comatose patient who develops telekinetic powers and an obsession with his nurse, Kathy played by Sharni Vinson (Bait, You’re Next). The film takes place in an old convent, now a private hospital for patients in a vegetative state. The hospital is run by the acerbic Doctor Roget, played by the inimitable Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, Gosford Park) and his daughter Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths, Blow).

The film starts with the death of Kathy’s predecessor, who unlike Nurse Williams (Peta Sergeant, Iron Sky) an air headed nurse with zero curiosity and seemingly a lack of morals, got suspicious of the lengths Doctor Roget and Matron Cassidy were going through to ‘cure’ the patients. On Kathy’s arrival we are treated to a display of Roget’s treatment including electroshock therapy and large injections of luminous coloured fluids. After witnessing some of these traumatic displays Kathy begins to think that Patrick is not as comatose as he seems.

From his comatose state Patrick uses his telekinetic and mind control powers (mind control on the basis that all human brain activity depends on the firing of electrical impulses, a fact rammed down the viewer’s from the start) to contact and protect Kathy. Unfortunately for her and her two suitors, a local radio psychiatrist and her ex-husband who she took the job to move away from (who look very similar), Patrick’s version of protection is very dangerous for their health.

There are a lot of issues with this film, for example, why is the private hospital so dirty? Surely even privately run hospitals have to have a level of cleanliness. Also why are patients kept only in one room (apart from Patrick) in only boxers over the covers? The film is hampered by unnecessary and poorly executed CGI as well as a confused storyline. It is hinted at that Patrick’s powers are linked to electricity, if that is that case how can he control objects such as seat belts, surely they are not electrical?

There is very little to recommend this film to anyone, the only redeeming feature is the dry wit of Doctor Roget.

 

Rating: 1/5

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The Sender (1982)

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The film starts dramatically with an unsuccessful suicide attempt on a public beach. The young man who tried to drown himself has no memories, including his name and he is assigned the name John Doe #83, played by Zeljko Ivanek (Argo, Hannibal). The story centres around Dr Gail Farmer (and her large 80’s perm), played by Kathryn Harrold (Desperate Housewives, Raw Deal) who treats John Doe at a state mental institution. Dr Farmer starts to notice strange things occurring in relation with the new patient, including a bathroom scene in which blood starts pouring out the taps and mirrors and a bedroom full of rats.

I did not massively enjoy this film, finding it in many ways predictable with limited (if any real) scares. It relies on many horror film favourites, including the creepy old man C.O.M, a troubled mother-child relationship and a ‘twist’ at the end (that I predicted half an hour into the film). It does however call into question the way mental illness was treated in the 1980s, for example the use of electroshock therapy as a cure for severe depression. Dr Farmer and Dr Denman (Paul Freeman), Dr Farmer’s boss, have a conversation about the treatment (Dr Farmer against, Dr Denman for) in which Dr Denman states that no patient has ever reported any pain to which Dr Farmer counters with not that they remember. When John Doe undergoes the treatment, all the staff in the room administering the electroshock therapy are lifted off the floor and electrocuted, experiencing the pain that it causes, showing how it feels and why it is no longer used.

The C.O.M in The Sender is in fact a creepy old woman, played by Shirley Knight (who goes on to star in Desperate Housewives alongside Kathryn Harrold). The C.O.M is in fact John Doe’s mother who, as well as knowing more than anyone else has the annoying habit of unexpectedly disappearing (and appearing) without a trace.

The acting in the film is very well done, with Ivanek’s John Doe convincingly confused and child-like and Harrold’s portrayal of Dr. Farmer as a substitute mother figure is first class. The Sender is directed by Roger Christian, who also directed Battlefield Earth which is regarded as the worst film ever made, winning Worst Director, Worst Picture, Worst Picture for the Decade and Worst ‘Drama’  of our first 25 years (and 5 others) at the Golden Raspberry Awards. Whilst The Sender does not reach these dizzying heights of badness, it does not encourage me to watch more films by Christian.

Maybe it is because it is not what I expected that I did not enjoy this film. When I read the description of this film I was expecting an evil demonic man who controls the people surrounding him into making them commit horrific acts. However, the ‘villain’, John Doe, is a misunderstood, frightened young man whose fears are projected onto the people around him. I would classify this film as a horror film in only the broadest sense, rather I think it is better thought of as a psychological thriller.