Saturday, September 20, 2014


Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment 

Region Code: 1
Duration: 89 Minutes
Rating: R 
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Steven R. Monroe 
Cast: Kaitlyn Leeb, Cassi Thomson, Graham Wardle, Hiro Kanagawa 

Here we have the very cute Kaitlyn Leeb playing Maiko, a transfer student in Japan whose birth mother took her own life in the infamous Suicide Forest in Japan. The tragedy has left a Maiko with a void and now she's assembled a crew of student documentary filmmakers to accompany her to the place where her mother died.  The Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan where thousands of people have committed suicide through the years.  

As it turns out this is not just a ceation of the film and is a very real place where 50-100 people commit suicide every year. At some point I watched a VICE video doc on the the suicide forest and it was quite a haunting place, so eerily quiet and littered with evidence of suicides past such as personal belongings and nooses hanging from the trees. So these kids get to the forest and start filming and we get a found-footage flavor right from the start but that pretty quickly falls to the side as the story plays out. They walk deeper into the forest towards the site where Maiko's mother committed suicide but before long before she begins  to see ghostly j-horror apparitions and the group make the acquaintance of a man (Hiro Kanagawa) who knows quite a bit about the forest - maybe a little too much. Additionally some jack-ass pranksters have followed the teens into the woods and they harass the doc crew and disrespect the dead - which is never good Karma. 

This one comes across as BLAIR WITCH PROJECT by way of the EVIL DEAD filtered through a j-horror prism and it's not awful but it certainly is not great either. Directed by Steven R. Monroe who brought us the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake a few years ago but apparently has been busy making Syfy channels movies ever since - which is exactly what this is - a Syfy produced TV movie. 

For a Syfy movie is pretty damn watchable and the location used for the forest is serene, haunting and quite nice to watch. The acting is pretty decent  and there's a surprising amount of gore for a Syfy film. The effects are decent - the digital stuff towards the end was slightly better than the Roger Corman produced Syfy stuff. The make-up effects of the j-horror inspired ghosties was actually quite good if nothing original. Monroe does manage to create a certain amount of atmosphere but there's little suspense or tension and this is only just watchable and not a memorable experience.

Afterward I was wondering why this was titled GRAVE HALLOWEEN? I didn't catch it the first time around but apparently they are in the woods on Halloween night but it's not relevant to the film in anyway, just a marketing gimmick. 

The disc looks good - the cinematography is quite nice and the transfer is solid but there are no extras on the disc. Not something I would run out to own but maybe a rerun on Syfy on an off night wouldn't be the worst idea ever. Monroe is a competent filmmaker but these made for TV movies just are not doing it for me but this is infinitely better than 12 DISASTERS which he also directed for Syfy.