14 December 2014

THE GRAVES/2009 /TONY TODD/BILL MOSELEY

The Graves director, Brian Pulido, is known in the comic book world as the creator of Lady Death and the Chaos comic book line. In the movie world he is now known as the creator of a total piece of crap movie called The Graves. And Pulido wastes little opportunity in promoting himself when in one scene one of the female leads holds up a copy of Lady Death while being video taped by her sister in a comic book store –with copies of other comic books Pulido is connected with behind her- before they both head out on a road trip through the deserts of Arizona. One sister is Megan Graves (Claire Grant) and the other is Abby Graves (Jillian Murray). Ergo the film’s title; The Graves. Pretty damned clever, eh?  Megan is the older and ‘stronger’ sister while Abby is the more whiney and dependent younger sister. Of course anyone who has evolved past a single celled organism and seen even half a dozen of these “survival” type horror films will anticipate the weaker character being the survivor and becoming even stronger than the character whose shadow they lived in all their lives. Right off the bat I had problems with the sisters because try as I might I found I did not like either one of them enough to care if either survived or not at the film’s end. So many modern horror films are stocked with characters so grumpy, anti-social and depressed that one begins to see the killer as some sort of redeemer really. The psychotic killer can’t be much worse than the cranky, spoiled teenagers they are killing off and for me that can be a problem in a film. I guess it is easier to write unlikable characters than likable ones. The sisters are so stereotyped as far as modern female horror leads go (or sometimes female leads period). They angrily flaunt their jugs and cast aspersions on each other and everyone they run into along the way to see the “world’s biggest thermometer”. Of course they are soon deriding and being condescending to rednecks and hillbillies in the truck stops along the way as big city folk always do in these films and in the process pissing off said rednecks.

In one such truck stop they run into the reverend Abraham Stockton played by Tony Todd in what amounts to another cameo role in a horror film by him really. He is on screen more here than in films like, lets say, the deplorable Murder-Set-Pieces and more deplorable (if possible) Hatchet, which also featured a cameo by the has been who never was Robert Englund. I am not sure what this recent trend in low budget horror is about, taking someone who should be on the screen as a central character and paying them enough money for half a day’s work then plastering their names on the DVD cover to dupe gullible people into paying money for it. Hey, I was duped into this one and I just downloaded it for free and feel ripped off. Todd is okay here as the clichéd evil Christian minister we have seen a million times in these films and yet we just don’t see enough of him for his his performance to matter. At the diner the girls are told by a waitress to check out the local attraction called Skull City. Seems this is much cooler than the world’s biggest thermometer, if that is humanly conceivable. And here is another problem (among too many to mention) I have with this film, and that is the very existence of this road trip, which is nothing more than a formulaic vehicle to get the girls into some weird backwoods area and have inbred weirdos stalk and try to kill them. They are from the “big city” of Phoenix (I think) and the idea that they would suddenly want to drive into the desert dregs of Arizona before Megan heads off to New York City for school in order to do some sisterly bonding is absurd. All the more absurd since all we are treated to is nothing but sibling squabbles from the get go. Another cliché from modern horror films; a group –or sometimes just a couple- of people who loathe either all decide it might cool to go on a road trip in one car together or sleep in a small cabin in the mountains together and go nuts observing one another’s idiosyncrasies. I don’t know. Call me old school. I don’t want to drive across a hot desert with some one I tend to spend all my time arguing with and fantasizing about murdering slowly anyway.


So I wonder if it would come as any surprise and ruin the film if I told you that Skull City is loaded with a hillbilly family of psychos who tend to kill off all the people who go there to check it out? The Atwood family run Skull City and see it as no major issue to kill off the paying guests. Jonah Atwood wears welding goggles or something and has a lot of mixed feelings about killing people all the time. He is like the alcoholic is always swearing off drinking and will stop tomorrow. His brother is Caleb Atwood – or Cookie to his friends and family- and he has little remorse about his calling in life. And why would he? He is played by none other than the crown prince of hillbilly lunatics himself, Bill Moseley. This is the type of role Moseley can play in his sleep and he does it well enough but like Tony Todd he is simply not on the screen long enough. In fact his character, and Jonah’s for that matter, is killed off way too easily. There is even a scene where he has the girls in his proverbial clutches and would have no problem killing them, but decides it might be more gaming to let them have a running start and then have him go looking for them. Oh come on. This has nothing to do with Moseley’s character but has everything to do with crappy writing. This might work in a comic book but in this film it was so obvious Pulido just did not know what else to do to keep the story moving.


Soon the girl’s are just running around Skull City and hiding in one shack after another. To break the tension and pad the time some other Skull City tourists show up and they are quickly killed off by having their throats slit. After Jonah is killed off by the girls a new twist is thrown into the story. An unnecessary and goofy twist. Seems there is a supernatural element in Skull City in the form of a demonic wind that appears in the form of cheesy CGI effects. And not only does the demon appear and people shrivel up in CGI but there is simply too much CGI blood. Even in one scene there is spilt blood lying on the ground and that is even done in CGI. They can’t even afford to throw a bucket of “real” fake blood on the ground for a scene? The CGI blood in this one really annoyed my. Not the worst I have seen but it got real old real fast.

There is just nothing new here at all. Of course films like this rely in many ways on clichés and stereotypes. The road trip thing is a usable device to get city people out into the woods, mountains or desert where are those weirdos really live. No weirdos in the crack houses of Compton or the alleyways of Brooklyn I guess. Hillbillies can be scary I guess. I like crazy hicks. But the supernatural twist ruined an all ready bad experience for me. I was settling in for a low quality girl running from the slasher flick at a certain point but soon I was simply getting annoyed at how a tried and true formula suddenly got sodomized by a no talent director and writer. So what if he can write comic books. Pulido blew it on this film and I am hard pressed to find even one supportive review of this mess online. Sometimes I want to say something like “oh the camera work was okay’ just so I don’t sound too bitter, but hell, the camera work was nothing great. It was shot on cheap video and looked too bright and crisp to give the story any mood. Something grittier would have worked better but I expect that this look will be more and more of what we will be seeing in the future. Why? Because it is cheap and does not require much skill to achieve. The film ends in such a way to suggest a possible sequel but it's been a couple years since this was released in 2009. I don’t know what Pulido has been up to since then but I hope it has nothing to do with movies unless he is sweeping up the theater after shows.


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