Everyone knows what "After Dark Horrorfest" is. Every year, Lionsgate and After Dark films release eight films into select theaters for a limited time. While there have been some real winners from this line up-"The Gravedancers", "Reincarnation", "The Abandoned" and "Mullberry Street" for example-by the time the second Horrorfest came around, we started getting movies that one is amazed got any sort of theatrical release. For every winner in Horrorfest, there will be mediocre to disappointing movies like "Tooth & Nail" and "Dying Breed", to really awful fair like "Lake Dead" and "Slaughter." Well, you can add "The Graves to that third category, as it may be the worst Horrorfest movie yet.
The Graves sisters-Abby (Jillian Murphy) and Megan (Clare Grant)-are two comic book, punk rock (well, as the director sees punk) and horror loving girls aka. two girls you will never meet in the real world. Well, Megan is headed to ASU with a marketing degree, so as a last hurrah, they decide to go looking for a fun roadside attraction. They instead end up going to Skull City Mine, a Ghost Town. Of course, it's not really abandoned, and soon the sisters find themselves fighting for their lives against a psychopath named Caleb (Bill Moseley) and a religious cult lead by Reverend Abraham (Tony Todd.) Can they survive? What's with the supernatural evil living in the town? Why should we care? How on Earth would stabbing a man's thigh kill him?
"The Graves" is nothing more than a failure. Writer and Director Brian Pulido is a horror comic book veteran (he is the creator of "Lady Death"* and "Evil Ernie"), but for a guy with such a pedigree, his movie comes off as rather clueless as to what makes horror movies like this work. The whole thing feels too much like Pulido was thinking to himself "well, horror fans like this in horror movies", but that he had no idea as to what makes such movies work. In fact, the whole thing feels artificial, as if it comes from somebody who has no understanding of the genre, but wants a quick buck. That's last part obviously isn't what Pulido intended, but that is how it feels.
It also doesn't help that our protagonists are completely bland and obnoxious. The film wants you to like the Graves sisters, but they are so dull, unrealistic and annoying that you keep hoping for the whole movie to come to a merciful end. Even worse amazingly, are the performances from Moseley and Todd. Here, Bill just plays another variation on the psychopathic killer he's played in far superior films, only really bad. It makes you wish he would have played someone else. Todd meanwhile, is so over the top and overacts so much that it becomes laughable. The fact that these two beloved genre veterans are even in dreck like this is depressing as hell, especially with the underwhelming performances they give.
I wish I could say "The Graves" is worth watching, but it's not. Instead, it's a cheap, superficial imitator that clearly wants to be loved, but lacks any of the elements that makes horror like this fun. Instead it's a headache to watch, more appropriate for Hot Topic shopping kids than genre fans. Avoid.
*At one point, the Graves sisters start going on about their love of Chaos Comics, one in which pretty much plugging "Lady Death" in a groan inducing bit of shameless self promotion. What the fuck Brian?