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Friday, February 27, 2015

My Review Of "Voices From The Grave"

Indie Directors Richard Stoudt and Laurence C. Holloway have teamed together for a new collection of nightmares that can be witnessed in the anthology series "Voices From The Grave". The stories include haunting tales of supernatural retribution, vengeful spirits and possession, framed by a familiar tale of wickedness in the form of bad luck and trickery. " Voices From The Grave" stars David Nelson, Michael Hanelin, Chris Labadie, Michelle Green, Scarlett O'Oneil,, Maryam Cne' and Bobby Shock.

"Voices From The Grave" begins with a horror fan seeking out obscure literature in a bookstore known to care lesser known horror. He finds a volume of short stories that gains his interested so he chooses a secluded location, and begins reading from the book. It isn't a new or clever framing device, but the setup work comfortably in setting the pace and tone of the anthology. It is familiar and timeless, plus the fact that it is literature and not a tape or disc gives a nice nod to reading which is something of a dying trend in our digitized world.

The first tale is titled "All Hallows' Eve", a not so subtle moral that focuses on poor judgment resulting in tragedy with a chilling, final retribution on Halloween. The story is a recognizable situation, a Halloween party with drinking that leads to an unfortunate death. There is a slice of " thy brother's keeper" sewn in to the tale that gets answered in a macabre, and sobering way. "All Hallows' Eve" is well written, the attitude stays dark and mournful. The ending of this story is as you would expect-actually you pretty much know how it is going to end from the beginning.

The cinematography is carefully thought out and done nicely. Visually "All Hallows' Eve" keeps with classic surrealism. The special effects are effective enough and create the needed ghoulishness. The soundtrack is the expected mix a spooky sounds and haunting, depressed instrumentals. It is all well coordinated production wise, but there is issues with sound quality during a lot of the dialog which often is drowned out by the surrounding noise. It is the only technical flaw in this short film. There is the issue of no real suspense or heightened drama in the piece, it is implied but never applied.

Next up is the Gary Brandner adaptation, titled "Invitation". It is a story of a lone traveler lured to a secluded location where he is surrounded by the misdeeds of a vengeful spirit of legend. It is also plagued by a sense of total awareness of the situation for the viewer. It too is well written, and carefully delivered. Unfortunately it lacks an air of motivation that justices the why- bless I totally missed that point. The cautionary element with the traveler belong lured to the social event didn't fit smoothly with the haunting element that ruled the piece, and I kept wanting answers to little aspects of the story involving certain character interactions.

The special effects in " Invitation" were actually creepy, spooky practical make-up effects and props that come off really nicely on camera. The whole atmosphere stayed in that classic ghost story state of mind which helped to make this one a little more entertaining than the previous short film. The soundtrack once again was a well crafted mix of instrumentals and sounds classic to these kinds of tales. Sadly though the story never becomes intense or suspenseful enough to really scare, and that nagging point of "what was the pay off for all of this happening?" just ate at me.

The third and final story titled "Re-Possessed" in the anthology is my favorite, having the most complexity, creativity, wicked humor that comes at the end of ghost stories. Plus it deals with possession, a car and a devious plot. Again, well written, clever, thought out, and entertaining. The surreal nightmare like state that begins this anthology in the first story comes back into play. The macabre is heavier and more effective and the drama actually gets elevated as the events play out.

Special effects are simple make-up artistry and camera tricks that work favorably to create a sense of the supernatural. The cinematography is creative, and nicely done just as it is throughout the film. The soundtrack is just as you would expect, just as it is in all these short films. Yeah the instrumentals and spooky sounds may not be original but the create the right emotion and atmosphere to carry the story to the end. The scariness isn't here but the energy and emotionalism of "Re-Possessed" are present enough to make feel what the doomed character feels, and the end is cool one.

Overall, "Voices From The Grave" is a simple, well directed horror anthology inspired by the supernatural. The acting is a mix of above par and low budget depending on the piece and the actor. Even then the acting isn't consistently bad based on any one actor's performance. The characters are believable, some are more developed than others but for a lower budgeted film the level of talent from the parties involved is considerable. The only two things that really plague "Voices From The Grave" are the lack of real suspenseful/chills, and the quality control issues with sound during dialog scenes. I viewed a simple screener, the sound issues may not be present on the actual DVD so that can't really be seen as a reason not to check out this anthology.
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