Grave Mistakes (2008)

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Overall Rating 48%
Overall Rating
Ranked #14,445
...out of 22,328 movies
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When a grave robber tries to barter with a strange antiques dealer, the two trade stories rather than goods. Tales of zombies, vampires, and ghosts are told upstairs while an unspeakable horror waits in the basement. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: October 9, 2008
It seems as though the horror anthology is coming back into style recently, and personally, I couldn't be happier. Yes, I'm a huge fan of these collections of mini servings of horror, as I feel that there are some excellent ideas floating around that simply wouldn't work when stretched out to feature length status. As an example, would any of the stories found in Creepshow, the definitive release in this subgenre, have worked had they been stretched out to ninety minutes? I don't think so, but at a scant twenty minutes each, they worked out marvelously. Grave Mistakes, the latest offering from indie director Chris LaMartina, takes this idea and runs with it by giving us four stories that are each interesting in their own little way.

Before we begin, I'd like to point out that there's going to be a lot of "this guy" and "that girl" in my synopses instead of the proper character and cast names. This is because I watched a screener copy of the film that did not have any credits attached to it and the film doesn't have an IMDb listing just yet, so basically, I'm as clueless as you are as to who played what.

With that out of the way, we begin with the obligatory wraparound sequence, where we find a charming young man out in the graveyard in the middle of the night. Is he paying his respects to a departed loved one? No sir: this is a horror movie, so there's really no room for anything as sappy as that. What this man is doing is digging up a grave so that he may pluck the buried valuables from the corpse below and pawn them later on. Yes, we've got a grave robber on our hands, and he soon finds himself haggling over the trading value of a ring that he found with the owner of the local pawn shop.

What he doesn't know is that he robbed the wrong grave tonight and came to the wrong pawn shop, because this particular ring is a one-of-a-kind antique and was buried with the store owner's dear old mother. Nevertheless, this shopkeeper wants to get the ring back, so he offers to trade anything in the store for that family heirloom. So, what's in the store? Why, this place is filled with bizarre trinkets and antiques, and each item has its own little story. This being a horror anthology and all, we get to hear some of these stories, and they go a little something like this...

The first story centers around a horror novelist who has found himself in a bit of a dilemma: the deadline for his latest book is just a few days away, and he hasn't even came up with an idea for the plot yet. His agent recommends that he attend a writing seminar to find a way to overcome his writer's block, and there, he finds that his instructor is a little... eccentric would be one word to describe the fellow. Even though the man is a bit of an oddball, he does give our hero some good advice, that being to head out to the local graveyard, find a tombstone with a striking epitaph, and build a story around that. The writer takes him up on his advice and soon finds an interesting little poem, but what he doesn't know is that this tombstone marks the final resting spot of a serial killer who wants to return to the land of the living and continue his murderous ways.

Personally, I felt that the opening story was the weakest of the bunch due to a lack of motive on the part of the zombie (and if you didn't guess he came back as a zombie, well, sorry for the spoiler). Stories like this need to have a clear motive: the leading man murdered somebody who comes back for revenge, or he desecrated their grave, or something along those lines. It just seems like a stretch to believe that somebody will come back from the dead with violence on their mind after you simply read what is written on their tombstone. Granted, the man who comes back for revenge was a former serial killer, but regardless, I thought that a little more explanation would have been nice; I mean, does he come back every time someone reads his tombstone? The ending twist makes the story work better than it could have and the zombie effects were damned nice, but still, I think this was the weakest overall story. 5/10.

The next story revolves around a pair of guys who are housed in some sort of clinic for people with sleeping disorders, with our heroes suffering from completely opposite afflictions: one does whatever it takes to prevent himself from going to sleep while the other wants to sleep constantly. However, they'll soon have to work together when a new girl arrives, as the insomniac seems to believe that she may be a vampire. Is she really a bloodsucking she-bitch, or does this guy just need a good night's sleep?

While I'm normally not a fan of vampires or the movies that revolve around them, this story was actually pretty entertaining thanks to the sleep angle that was played up by both of the leading men. Also, I think it should go without saying, but yes, there is some vampire action to be found in this story (I wasn't going to spoil it, but hey, it's right there in the trailer). It's not an amazing story, but keeping in mind that I'm not too keen on these beasts to begin with, the fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did says something about its quality. If you happen to enjoy vampire flicks, you'll probably like this one even more. 7/10.

Next up is a story about ghosts, and to be more specific, ghosts that have been caught on film over the years. You know those portraits that were supposed to be nothing more than the guy or gal in question standing there smiling for the camera, when in fact, the photographer managed to capture a supernatural entity on film? Well, there's a lady who has a museum devoted to the supernatural, with an impressive collection of these photos being one of the selling points. A trio from the local newspaper has decided to do a story on the phenomenon, but when one of them steals one of those pictures so that they can spice up their article, they discover that there's more to this than meets the eye.

This story is a prime example of that little point I made in my opening paragraph. You see, the plot found here is fairly unique in that I've never seen it done on film before (though I have read a story that shares the same basic concept), but this is also a plot that wouldn't have worked in a feature length film without some serious padding. Yes, it's true that this one wouldn't have worked with a running time of around ninety minutes, but in this format, you couldn't have asked for more from the story. It's interesting, it's original, it's spooky, and if the next story hadn't been so good, this one would easily have been my favorite of the collection. 8/10.

Wrapping things up is a little gem that concerns an elderly man lying on his deathbed who has one final wish, a wish that he will soon relay to to his live-in nurse. I'm not going to tell you what said wish is, but what I will tell you is that this man was an occultist throughout his life, and he's also a man who made a deal with the devil after the death of his wife. Now that he's about to die, he has realized that perhaps bargaining with Satan wasn't worth it, so he asks his nurse to... well, you'll just have to watch and find out. George Stover (of every Don Dohler flick ever made) makes an appearance as the man's younger brother.

Yes, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, this story is the cream of the crop. Truth be told, there's simply nothing wrong with it: the storyline is perfect in that it's original, entertaining, and full of surprises, the acting is as good as one could hope for, and then there's the creature effects which are truly a thing of beauty. There's a few spots of CGI to be found throughout the segment, but when it comes to the monsters, the filmmakers chose to do everything practically - and once again, the results were picture perfect. They say that you're supposed to save the best for last, and the boys responsible for Grave Mistakes took that advice to heart. 9.5/10.

Overall, this film features two great stories, one damned good story, and one that is decent enough but could have been better. So, when we average everything together, we come out with a score of 7.4/10. I'm going to go ahead and tack on an extra point for the wraparound story (and more specifically, the payoff of the wraparound story), bringing us up to an 8.4/10 which feels a little more appropriate in my eyes. Fans of horror anthologies or horror in general would be well served to check this one out whenever it hits DVD (or theatrically in a couple of weeks if you're in the Baltimore area), as while it's not quite a perfect film, it is certainly an entertaining one.
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