Brian Pulido’s name is not unfamiliar to fans of horror culture. From his wildly successful Chaos! Comics (which includes his creations Evil Ernie and Lady Death, to name a few) to his now burgeoning film career, his name is synonymous with horror in several capacities. With the release of his film “The Graves”, Pulido goes head first into the nastiness, with decent results.
The story revolves around sisters Megan and Abby Graves who set out on one last hurrah that leads them to the abandon Skull City Mine that turns out to be not only occupied, but by some pretty evil characters at that. This town is inhabited by some peculiar small town folks with some very fucked up religious views. The Graves figure out very quickly that they are being hunted down but have no idea why. In order to survive the evil that’s closing in on them, they have to resort to primitive and violent means that ends up in a cacaophonous battle. Will they be able to escape the town of crazies (lead by horror legend Tony Todd) or end up food for the gods?
All in one fell swoop, Pulido engages some of horror’s favorite concepts. Unfortunately, this idea may have hindered the film from being a truly great first feature. When the action first starts to fire up, the film seems as though it’s going to be a gritty survival story ala’ Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But as the story begins to unfold we get hints of the supernatural, evil religious cults, creatures/beings, and zombies (to a lesser degree)-so, in this case, too much of a good thing is a bad thing in regards to the story. It’s not to say that the movie isn’t affective but rather too busy at times to make for a believable storyline. Case in point: towards the end of the first act, we’re introduced to Caleb (another horror legend, Bill Moseley) who at first seems as if he was to be the saving grace of the the Graves sisters. Things quickly go south when he kills off the last surviving member of a group of doomed tourists we met briefly in the first act. This ends up leading to the strange second act. After a strange (and long) chase sequence, Caleb and Megan Graves (played by newcomer Clare Grant) have a weird sitdown in which we hear a bit about the past and how every one of the strange folks they’ve encountered are all intertwined and that they will have to die. This seems that this may be the fate of Megan until the party is interrupted by Megan’s sister Abby (Jillian Murray). The end result-the girls escape and Caleb dies. Normally, this isn’t uncommon fodder for a horror flick but the end result doesn’t really set the last third of the movie up very cohesively. Had this been broken up into a series of sorts, then you would have been able to follow a decent strand of logic from point A to point B but instead, it felt slightly muddled. What happens in the third act is genuinely creepy and truly makes the movie what it is, but none of it ties together very cleanly.
Earlier in the review, I called The Graves a decent film, but I’ve spent most of my time pointing out the flaws. True, there are some strange plot lines tied together and I was disappointed by the use of CGI for special effects over good ol’ fashioned latex and fake blood but, what came of this movie is that Pulido LOVES what he does and wants to contribute something great to horror. He’s perhaps too eager, hence the use of sooo many ideas in one story. The good that will come of this? Brian Pulido is a smart guy, interesting writer, and someone who genuinely loves horror. And while I doubt The Graves is destined for my top 10 list by the end of the year, it does no doubt show that he’s on the right track. There’s no question that he’s going to be around for awhile and will whip something beastly at us in the near future, but I am viewing The Graves as a flawed, but fun first entry into horror. If you’re a lifer, then I recommend you pick it up, check it out, and formulate your own opinion. If not, you’re bound to lose interest in it quickly. By no means is the film boring, but with several story lines going at once, it can get slightly convoluted. Still, the horror geek will get a treat out of Tony Todd and Bill Moseley doing what they do best in playing creeps plus, there was a pleasant surprise in the appearance of D. Randall Blythe…yes, that D. Randall Blythe. Though, I can’t stand his band, Lamb of God, I was impressed at how well he pulled off his character. His look, body type, and delivery were all in tune with what seemed to embody his character. If he keeps it up, he’s got a career in horror as a really creepy fucking guy. Clare Grant and Jillian Murray were well cast as the Graves sisters. You definitely feel like they’re sisters and when they emote for one another, it’s very genuine. While actresses like this seem to get away from horror as quickly as possible, they’re both very stong females who could carry a film such as this, on a larger scale.
So, it’s looking like I’ve created a general air of confusion with this one. Look-this one’s a toss up. A lot of film makers first time out the gate is not always the best portrait of what their true abilities are. Pulido seemed to have wanted to make his Texas Chainsaw Massacre of sorts. And who wouldn’t? In this humble writer’s opinion it’s the greatest horror film that’s ever been made. If you haven’t seen Pulido’s first effort (the short film) “There’s Something Out There”, check it out. It’s fun and creates an eeriness that’s hard to beat in the short film medium. And if you’re going to watch that, then watch The Graves. It’s not the best horror film ever made, but it’s a nice introduction to what promises to be a spirited and ambitious horror film career.