A reality TV crew are locked inside a derelict mental hospital overnight, in the hope of capturing some spooky activity on film. At first they're happy for eye witnesses to make up their stories, and their psychic expert is clearly performing for the camera. But as darkness falls, it seems the faking may not be needed after all.
The most striking thing about the movie, and its biggest asset, is the location. The derelict building - with its long corridors, dark corners and creepy atmosphere - is enough to scare the wits out of you on its own. But add a restricted light source, eerie silence, and some unsettling back stories, and the whole thing starts to feel very oppressive indeed.
The claustrophobic atmosphere builds as the building becomes an ever-changing labyrinth which the crew cannot escape from. Time seems to inexplicably stand still. And all the while, sounds and visions start to close in on them. As the characters become more and more consumed by fear, you begin to wonder how much of what they see is real, and how much is a product of their terrified minds.
The film uses jump scares fairly well (I'll admit I nearly leapt off the sofa more than once), but the sequences that were most effectively frightening were when unnerving noises were heard, but the sources were not shown, leaving our imagination to create its own terrors.
Events build up until eventually the movie seems to lose all sense of sanity, and all manner of horrors are thrown into the mix. But that's not a criticism. The last act of the film is actually a lot of fun. Yes it goes a bit bonkers, but it's very entertaining, and even reveals a sense of humour.
One final note. When it finished, I watched the trailer, and I'm SO glad I didn't see that before the film. All the best bits and significant moments seem to be included in that couple of minutes, which would have completely spoiled the experience for me. So - if you're thinking of watching Grave Encounters - AVOID the trailer at all costs! 3.5/5