Released by: Anchor Bay UK
Released on: May 31, 2010. Director: Brian Pulido Cast: Clare Grant, Julian Murray, Amanda Whyss, Bill Moseley, Tony Todd
Year: 2009 Purchase From Amazon
Comic book fans from the nineties will have no trouble remembering Brian Pulido – but in case they do, his latest movie, The Graves, reminds us in an early scene that takes place inside Atomic Comics that he was the guy who created Lady Death and a few other ‘bad girl’ types by shooting one of the lead characters in front of a rack of said comics. But yeah, with that blatant bit of self promotion out of the way, the movie is about these two sisters, Megan (Clare Grant) and Abbey Graves (Jillian Murray), who are out for one last good time before Meg moves to New York City to go to school. After they’re done tooling around at the comic store they head to a club, kick a guy in the nuts, and c heck out a band called Calabrese (introduced by none other than…. Brian Pulido). Abbey is videotaping as much of this as she can – after all, it’s their last hurrah.
The next day the two hit the road and wind up at a dinner where a weird priest (Tony Todd) is hanging out with a girl named Becca who mysteriously vomits on the table. The waitress, not really all that phased by this, tells the two girls they should go check out their local tourist attraction, the Skull City Mine, located just a few miles away. Intrigued by the idea of a ghost town, the girls take this advice and soon meet the hostess, a woman with brown teeth calling herself Mama. They pay the admission fee, head into the deserted buildings and soon find themselves being chased by a guy with a beard brandishing a hammer. He makes short work of a few other victims before Meg manages to dispose of him and flag down some help from a passerby in a truck (Bill Moseley). Well, he’s not what he seems either, and before you know it bodies are dropping, flies at showing up and sucking the souls out of corpses, and lots of CGI blood effects destroy an interesting premise, a great location, and give a reasonably effective cast little to do but run around the desert and yell.
Brian Pulido is doing his best to channel Robert Rodriguez here, from the twangy-punkabilly soundtrack to the opening credits sequence right down to his production company’s name (Mischief Maker studios? Really? You couldn’t have come up with a less obvious swipe?) but ultimately doesn’t do a very good job of it. The plot is riddled with logic gaps and scenes that are meant to be scary fall flat – a prime example being a scene where Meg gets ‘possessed’ by whatever it is that is in the area and starts to growl and snap like a dog. It’s not scary, it’s just really goofy.
Pulido has assembled a capable enough cast but hasn’t bothered to give them much to work with. Tony Todd is only in the film for about ten minutes and while he’s not a bad choice to play a deranged preacher, he’s a little too heavy on the fire and brimstone angle. Jillian Murray and especially Clare Grant are plenty easy on the eyes and sex it up a bit early on but aren’t given much more of an opportunity to do any more than that, though Grant spends a lot of time hunched over with her cleavage exposed. That counts for something. The script tries to forge an emotional attachment between the two sisters early on and partially succeeds only to more or less forget about it once it all hits the fan. Bill Moseley, very capable of taking roles and really making them his own, can’t be bothered to do much more here than we’ve seen him do what seems like a hundred times over the last few years of his straight to video career. Falling somewhere between Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw 2 and his Otis character from The Devil’s Rejects, his character here is nothing new.
This is a low budget horror movie though, right? Could Pulido save it by tossing in copious amounts of sex and violence to distract us from the fact that the script is terrible and the production values not all that interesting? He could have, but he doesn’t. There are a few splatter effects here and there but almost all of them are done with bad CGI and as such the fail to convince. There’s no nudity either. So no, there’s not enough sex and violence or T&A to really distract us, and instead, it has to depend on the film’s non-existent tension. The result is a film both boring and messy and therefore not worth your time. At least the mine setting looked cool.
The Graves is presented on DVD in a good 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. With most of the film taking place in the desert and during the day time, the colors tend to run a little bit on the hot side but in the context of the movie, it actually works quite well that way. The image is well defined with nice detail and there are no problems with print damage, mpeg compression artifacts or pesky edge enhancement. Some shimmering is evident here and there but it’s not a constant problem. Black levels are generally quite strong as well, and this is, generally, a well encoded disc even if the source material is pretty erratic.
The primary audio option for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. Most of the activity comes from the front of the sound mix here, with the surrounds used fairly sparingly and only really springing to life during the scenes where the flies descend upon the corpses and to spread out the sound mix a bit. Regardless, the mix is pretty much problem free, though it shows its low budget roots in spots. Dialogue is easy to understand and the levels are well balanced. As you’d expect for a brand spankin’ new production there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about – you just can’t help but wonder if it could have had more rear channel activity and stronger bass. An alternate language Dolby Digital 2.0 track is included, but there are no subtitles offered.
The commentaries that were included on the U.S. release have been omitted from this British issue, but the other extras are here starting with the first of the four featurettes which is a six minute piece called From Plan To Actual that includes the requisite behind the scenes footage as we see how Pulido again cribs from Rodriguez by shooting his storyboards on video before moving on to finished product. It does appear to be a technique that works fairly well. The second featurette is a one minute blurb called Spot The Gnome in which Pulido lets us know we can try and find a gnome hidden in different parts of the movie if we want to (I didn’t) while the third featurette, Behind The Screams, is a twenty-one minute piece that is a basic making of segment that includes cast and crew interviews and more behind the scenes and location footage. The last featurette is Sound Designing The Graves which is a five minute bit about how the sound design work was created for the film. There’s also five minutes worth of Audition Footage included on the disc as well.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, a music video by the band Calabrese featured in the movie, a short sport called No Regrets Tattoo that is bit where Pulido and some of his pals get tattoos done (this wasn’t on the U.S. release), menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
The Graves gets an ‘A for effort’ but simply fails to entertain, amuse or scare. The end result is a tiresome movie that borrows too much from other, better films and which fails to really ever reach beyond boring despite a great location and a few interesting cast members. Anchor Bay UK’s DVD looks and sounds about as good as it probably can and it’s good some decent, but that’s not enough to save this one. Skip it.