Filipino horror film The Gravedancers was acclaimed by the After Dark Horror Fest, and now it's available on Netflix streaming and on DVD. But is it worth your attention? We investigate. Spoilers ahead...
The Gravedancers is a pretty decent horror film — right up until the end, when it goes off the rails in a way that's hard to forgive. There's a scene at the end of the film in which a character makes a vitally important throw – which lands depressingly off target. That's a perfect visual metaphor for the film.
It starts out as a well-shot, if by-the-numbers horror film. Three friends, while mourning the loss of a fourth friend one night at a cemetery, find a mysterious black envelope with a poem inside which urges them to dance on graves as a celebration of life. Their version of a wake has included a lot of alcohol, so this seems like a good idea to them. When they find out that the spirits of the people whose graves they danced on have followed them home, they're no longer in a dancing mood.
The pacing is flawless: The characters' realization that they're being haunted builds slowly, and the film shows it well. Best of all, Gravedancers doesn't subject us to tedious cuts between the three friends as each of them makes the same discoveries. One has problems, and then goes to communicate with another and finds out something new.
The introduction of the "experts" who can explain the phenomenon is also well handled, and the revelations come without too much pointless exposition. Subtle hints at what certain characters might do are placed well enough that when they pay off, it makes sense.
Then the final ghost fight comes, and it all falls apart. Everything goes wrong with the film. Doors close and are ‘stuck' until it's convenient for the plot for them to open. People in close quarters suddenly get separated. Spirits move incredibly fast around cannon-fodder characters, but slow down or freeze altogether when they approach a character who is supposed to live. Effects are shown once and they're scary. And then again and again until it's clear they're just a person in a mask. A guy gets into a fist fight with a ghost. And it all culminates with that slow-motion throw, in what is clearly daylight with a blue filter. This is a movie that falls on its face. Watch it if you want to be scared for an hour or so, and then go to bed feeling safe and laughing.