The Graves isn't as funny as Darkplace

Well, it's (DAY YOU SET THIS TO PREPOST) yet again, which means it's time to take a look at just what Tony Todd’s inestimable gifts are being wasted on this week!

There’s maybe ninety seconds where The Graves feels like it’s going to work. The opening of the film is so hacky, obvious, perfunctory, and lifeless that it seems like the writer/director (Brian ‘Garth Marenghi’ Pulido) is making an incisive parody of the killbilly genre.

A vacationing family (mom, dad, and baby) head out to a blacksmithing display being performed by what’s obviously a serial killer. I mean, we don’t see him or anything, but look at his hair, and trust me when I tell you that his voice is just ridiculous.

Also. A replica pioneer village in the middle of nowhere is completely where you would take your uncomprehending baby. That’s utterly plausible.

The promising part of this sequence is that it cuts immediately from that shot above to the injured husband running away from the murderous killbilly blacksmith, crying over his dead baby, and clutching her shoe while acting atrociously. It’s at this point that I was convinced that the movie absolutely had to be a joke. No one would just toss in a dead baby so casually and expect the audience to do anything but laugh, right?

This impression was only reinforced when the husband runs by a severed head-

Which the killbilly then steps on, revealing it to be an extremely cheap rubber prop-

And only a few moments later the killbilly beats dad to death while explaining that it’s ‘nothing personal’.

So, to reiterate – (bad editing+terrible acting+cheap props+hilarious melodrama) must necessarily = incisive parody, right?

Apparently not. It seems that if you’re a terrible enough writer/director, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that you can produce a film so mediocre that it essentially becomes a parody of itself.

Our main characters are introduced, like so many reality show contestants before them, by speaking directly into a camera and explaining their situation, backstories and personality traits. Since these aren’t reality show contestants, though, this is profoundly awkward writing from a creator obviously too timid to just go ahead and add a narrator.

The crazy part about this sequence is that the video doesn’t have a logical reason to exist in the plot. The premise is that one of the sisters is moving to New York, and they’ve brought along a a camera to document their final roadtrip before being seperated. (Don’t worry, the film doesn’t become shakycam verite at this point.) While I get the idea of taping a road trip, why are they talking about themselves in such detail? This tape isn’t intended for viewing by anyone but the two sisters who, spoiler alert, already know each other pretty well.

The ‘getting to know them’ sequence is also a complete wash for the audience, since the girls have essentially interchangeable personalities, and can only be told apart based on their hair colours. And completely different faces. Really, they don’t look that related at all, come to think of it.

But hey, let’s move on from the first five minutes, and cut to Tony Todd. The girls narrowly avoid seeing a girl as she flees for her life:

Yes, that’s Tony Todd’s giant hand grabbing her shoulder. He also showed up a little earlier on, as a voice giving a crazy religious sermon on AM radio. You know, like in that Simpsons episode. Which means Garth wants us to be scared by something that the Simpsons parodied nearly twenty years ago. Huh.

The general shoddiness of the production rears its ugly head once more when we get an insert shot of the town as the girls drive up, looking for someplace to buy lunch.

Five lane highway? Turning lane median? Strip malls, well-watered trees, and houses stretched into the distance? This is so profoundly not a village of under 250 people.

Back in the stupid, stupid plot, once the girls are seated in the diner they observe Tony, dressed as a minister, enter with his abuse victim:
Meanwhile a group of twentysomethings get murdered at pioneer village. Because, again, it’s an unbelievably popular tourist destination. Even though every single person who goes there winds up being brutally murdered by killbillies.

Back at the diner the girls decide that they’re going to head out to the ‘Skull City’ tourist attraction, despite the fact that the abuse victim nearly chokes on water when she hears someone recommend it to them.

So these girls are basically asking to be murdered at this point.

Garth then chooses, inexplicably, to not cut away with the girls when they leave the diner, but instead to remain with Tony, who stands up and, in a classic scene of one character telling another something that they already know, announces that every single person in town is complicit in the killbilly murders, and that those murders are necessary to support the town.

I can’t stress how pointless this sequence is. It exists for no other reason than to suck any possible surprise out of the premise. Almost as if Garth was afraid that his hypothetical audience couldn’t take even the slightest approximation of tension.

Was he making the movie for Victorian spinsters, watching the film from their fainting couches? One can only assume.

By this point the film had killed any hope in me that it was something more ambitious than a paint-by-numbers killbilly town movie, and from the diner scene on it walks so carefully along the well-worn path that you could easily take over the synopsizing at this point without fear of missing anything.

Some ugly locals show up:

Body count deaths:

Girls running and screaming:


Help arrives:

Or does it?

Obligatory bondage sequence:

Ah, crying girl tied to a chair? How did you become the horror film’s equivalent of the action movie’s beloved ‘explosion’?

Words can’t adequately express how tedious this ‘psychological torture’ sequnce is. Unless you’re counting the words in the script, which I’d imagine were sufficiently tedious to get the point across. How else could the film have wound up this bad?

It was bad enough that I kind of checked out for the last half-hour or so of the proceedings, which featured more bondage, and evil town, the big reveal of the town’s evil nature, and some passably entertaining evil gospel from Todd.

That’s right, Tony’s not just relegated to that one scene in the beginning. He shows up again right at the very end to remind viewers what a horror movie villain ought to actually look like.

Still, even Todd’s performance, which, as always, elevates the mediocre material he’s saddled with, isn’t enough to justify watching the rest of this miserable dreck.

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