I bit my lip with anticipation upon opening the envelope containing my screener copy of Grave Halloween, which from the title alone sounded like it was going to be a blast.
Surely I was about to see hordes of zombies appear on screen before me, waltzing through a town, rampaging and tearing flesh asunder from towns folk on a grim Halloween?
To my dismay the answer was no. Not one grave in sight nor any hint of Halloween in my face for the whole near 90 minutes of what I can only describe as Syfy TV fodder.
Our storyline begins with Miko and her college friends heading into Suicide Forest which is at the base of Mount Fuji. Miko’s sole purpose as well as documenting the journey to Suicide Forest with her friends is to perform a soul ceremony which will help her mother’s soul be released from eternal damnation and I presume allow her access to Heaven.
Their journey to Suicide Forest appears to be amazingly quick and as they arrive they are greeted by the customary stranger warning them not to disrespect the dead and to leave the forest. Surely these kids have read the horror rule book which states when someone warns you that bad things are going to come your way if you hang around, you turn round and make a run for it?
As per the horror rule book the warning blows straight over their heads and they stay in the forest, filming Miko’s reactions and discussions on camera.
As the film progresses we discover that Miko had a sister she didn’t remember and that Mum’s definitely not been to Iceland! She’s hungry for any soul she can get, including her daughter’s. Miko’s sister meanwhile is not the full ticket herself and appears to be wandering round the forest with her own agenda. For a sister portrayed in flashbacks as quite a kind caring soul, the sister we see presented to us on screen appears to be just as tortured and evil as Mum.
Will Miko and her friends survive the night and live to see another Halloween? Do we really care I hear you scream?
Whilst being entertaining sporadically, I felt that Grave Halloween lacked depth in explaining the concept of Suicide Forest and why Miko was so obsessed with visiting it to perform a ritual for a Mum she had never really known.
Character development was lacking somewhat and I didn’t connect with any of the characters or feel any empathy towards Miko’s plight. I was also dumbfounded about the ghost character Jim, who at first seemed very caring towards Miko, but then turned against her, basically helping Mum pursue her in her plight to devour her soul.
To say I was confused is an understatement. I also don’t recall seeing Miko attempt to perform the ritual she wished to perform either. This might have been because of all the scares taking place on screen, or perhaps I dozed off mid way and forgot what I was watching?
There was so much more to give with regards to the hungry ghost concept in the film and this wasn’t explored in as much depth as it should have been. The fact that the storyline started off as a ghost story and then veered into basic point scoring by having hangings, stabs in the neck, someone being hung, drawn and quartered and someone’s face being eaten by bugs (that came out of someone elses mouth) left me screaming at the screen NO!
I don’t like ghost stories that turn into gore fests and I don’t believe anyone else really does.
This film may appeal to those who like J-Horror, ghosts, blood, gore and pale figures with white contact lenses who are meant to be scary but aren’t.