Thirty-something Harris McKay (Dominic Purcell) successfully plays against type as a successful lawyer and devoted family man who wants nothing more to have babies with his wife Allison (Clare Kramer) and enjoy his well-earned good life. But all that contentment is jeopardized when an old college pal dies in a car crash and Harris is reunited with a couple of bad-influence buddies from those bygone days when the drinks flowed freely, and the sex was on tap.
Kira (Josie Maran) has never gotten over Harris, and Sid (Marcus Thomas) has never grown up, but old friendships die hard and so when Allison goes home after the memorial service, Harris and Co. go to a bar, then make a drunken foray into the cemetery to pay their final respects one last time. The freshly interred grave has the usual flowers, bows and tributes, but when Sid finds a strange black envelope with an unsigned poem inside, he reads it aloud and literally wakes the dead.
While The Gravedancers does have an authentic The Haunting vibe here and there, it tries too hard towards the end and devolves into an effects-heavy gorefest. Big, bad, open-mouthed supernatural CGI faces work fine in moneyed extravaganzas like Stephen Sommers' The Mummy, but in low-budget horror indies? Um, not so much.
It's a shame the ending is so over-the-top and overly ambitious, because the plot mirrors a good, old-fashioned ghost story complete with curses and new-fangled phantom-detecting scientific equipment (The Devil Commands, The Legend of Hell House). The characters are well-drawn, mature, and layered. The peripheral supporting cast are less textured, but they're fun and colorful — especially the persnickety French parapsychologist, played playfully by Tchéky Karyo.
In spite of switching gears from a creepy, credible ghost movie into a too-big-for-its-britches special effects and blood bash, The Gravedancers is well worth a look for those interested in seeing something other than a teen-torture flick, a remake, or a J-horror.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson