Saturday, May 26, 2007


It’s Round 5 of the on-going b*tchslapping bout between the Five-legged Iguana and the After Dark Horrorfest line-up.
The challenger this round: Mike Mendez’s The Gravedancers.

Harris (Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell) attends the funeral of a college friend (at the bizarrely misspelled “Cresent View Cemetery”) and thanks to his loser friend Sid (Marcus Thomas), ends up messing around with something called “The Gravedancers’ Lament,” a spell which awakens three vengeful spirits that then go about and make life a living hell for them, as well as their other friend Kira (Josie Maran, one of Dracula’s brides in Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing), and Harris’ wife Allison (Clare Kramer, Glory from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Cue a pair of paranormal investigators, Vincent (Tcheky Karyo, from the Luc Besson-directed The Messenger and the Luc Besson-produced Kiss of the Dragon) and Culpepper (Megahn Perry), throw in some unresolved issues between old friends, and you’ve got a film that’s certainly (and thankfully) better than Dark Ride and Wicked Little Things, though falls far short of the high bar established by The Abandoned.

One of The Gravedancers’ main problems is that oftentimes, the supernatural shenanigans are never convincingly terrifying enough to be truly scary. In fact, there are moments when things get vaguely ridiculous, and the hoped for screams sometimes pop out of the audience’s mouths as chuckles and laughter.
I mean, when there is actually a physical brawl between Purcell and the ghost that is tormenting him, well, you have to admit to the strangeness of it all.
Which is not to say The Gravedancers is without any saving grace.
It does have its moments (as evidenced by the screencap above), and I’ll admit to a couple of effective “jump” moments that actually got me, but the production never really pushes the material to its logical horrific extreme. There are even some awkward attempts at levity that never quite work, and seem badly out of place given the very serious matter at hand.

The performances aren’t exactly awards-worthy either, particularly that of Marcus Thomas, whose Sid is simply an annoying piece of horror movie dead meat, and the fact that all the trouble is his fault and he never really seems repentant about that just makes matters worse.
The script meanwhile, compounds the problem, with character confrontations taking place at the most inopportune and inappropriate moments. (Focus, people! Ghosts are out to kill us! Let’s get all Dr. Phil after we’ve survived the night…)

If you’re curious though, or happen to be a hardcore Purcell fan (you’re certainly not gonna see an axe-wielding piano teacher kick Purcell’s a$$ on Prison Break!), then you may want to check The Gravedancers out.
It isn’t a total loss, and hey, if Giant Flying Spectral Heads float your boat, then go knock yourself out.

Parting shot: Check the Archive for reviews of the other After Dark Horrorfest titles, The Abandoned, Dark Ride, and Wicked Little Things.

(The Gravedancers OS courtesy of

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