Originally released in 2009, The Graves is self-described as a “supernatural survival shocker.” The self-description is accurate, as the movie mixes elements from the slasher genre with supernatural elements. The Graves is not a really bad film, but most horror fans will find it uninspired and derivative of many other genre films, making it rather tedious to sit through.
The movie centers on sisters Megan (Clare Grant) and Abby (Jillian Murray) Graves. With one of the sisters off to New York City to delve into the marketing world, the sisters decide to have one last crazy weekend together. They of course start off with a visit to their favorite comic store, where they plug some of writer, producer, and director Brian Pulido’s books, and then it’s off to some town in Arizona that supposedly boasts the world’s largest thermometer.
But the sisters never make it to this town. Instead, they wind up at the Skull City Mine roadside attraction deep in the Arizona desert. Sadly, the place is run by a family of psychos who kill anyone who comes to their “museum.” The stronger of the two, Megan takes charge and actually dispatches one of the psychos (big man Shane Stevens, who is a reluctant killer). However, another psycho soon appears, one Caleb “Cookie” Atwood (played to the hilt by genre vet Bill Moseley), and this one takes personal joy in tormenting the girls, and thus the bulk of the movie turns into one long chase, with both sides fighting for supremacy.
The final reel of the movie reveals that the psychos are not really psychos. It seems that one Reverend Abraham (Tony Todd, going for it all) has unleashed a vaporous demon that can possess the souls of the living. The demon takes personal joy in consuming the soul of someone at the point of death. To keep the demon at bay, Abraham and his followers force a family to murder strangers coming through town.
All the leads in this flick are genre vets, particularly Moseley, Todd, Amanda Wyss (who plays cultist Darlene), Grant, and Murray. Then there’s writer, producer, and director Brian Pulido, a comic-book veteran who has produced fan favorites like “Lady Death,” “Bedlam,” “Cremator,” “Jade,” and “Evil Ernie.” With such powerhouses in front and behind the camera, you would think that The Graves would be essential viewing.
The principal problem with The Graves is that it relies too much on previous films that were much better constructed and created. There are elements of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Devil’s Rejects, as well as a host of other genre films. Although homage is okay, The Graves relies heavily on these movies to tell its story, almost making it a poor parody of such movies.
Hamstringing the film even more is a dreadful pace. The film bogs down with an uninspired chase that lasts forever. The supernatural elements are interesting, but these come a little too late. The happy ending doesn’t help matters, and the acting his a little too over-the-top for fans to take the proceedings seriously.
The film is also a horror tease, with little overt gore. Yeah, there’s some payoff, particularly during the end sequences, but overall the film constantly hints at ghastly events but restrains itself at key moments, pulling the camera away and having some moments left to the imagination. Although this type of filming can work (think of Texas Chainsaw Massacre), it does not work here, primarily because there is little buildup and plenty of letdown.
I can’t really recommend The Graves, although fans of B-horror-type films will get some thrills out of it. Here’s hoping that Brian Pulido learns from this experience and finds his own voice in the genre, as he is a very creative soul.