Grave Encounters is a 2011 Canadian-American mockumentary supernatural horror film, shot in the found footage style. The footage follows the crew of a paranormal reality television program who lock themselves in a haunted psychiatric hospital in search of evidence of paranormal activity as they shoot what ends up becoming their final episode.
Written and directed by The Vicious Brothers, the film premiered on April 22, 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival and received mostly mixed reviews. The film was released on August 25, 2011 in select theaters using the Eventful Demand It and Video on Demand via Comcast. The film premiered internationally in Italy via distributor Eagle Pictures under the title ESP Fenomeni Paranormali on June 1, 2011.
Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film has received a cult following and spawned a sequel in 2012. The hospital it was filmed in is Riverview Hospital, a mental institute in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
The film begins with the producer of Grave Encounters explaining to the public as to why the famous TV show of the same name suddenly got cancelled. The found video footage shows the crew of Grave Encounters—composed of Lance Preston, occult specialist Sasha Parker, technical expert Matt White, cameraman T. C. Gibson, and guest-starring psychic medium Houston Grey—preparing to investigate the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years. They receive a tour of Collingwood and its underground tunnels and also learn about Collingwood's history, including a physician named Arthur Friedkin, who performed unethical experiments and lobotomies on the hospital patients before being killed by escaped patients; Friedkin was never arrested for his actions due to lack of evidence of the accusations. The crew voluntarily lock themselves inside Collingwood for the night (The caretaker chains the main entrance from the outside) and begin their investigation, setting up camp in the hospital lobby near the entrance. Lance and his crew try to establish contact with the unseen entities responsible, and although they are initially unsuccessful, they are eventually tormented by hauntings, which become increasingly hostile.
With half an hour left before the hospital caretaker comes to unlock the front doors, the crew starts packing. Matt goes to retrieve the cameras, but disappears. The others spend the next several hours looking for Matt, with the caretaker not arriving. Desperate, they knock down the front doors to escape, only to discover it leads to another corridor, as do several other "exit" doors they find. They notice that it is still night outside when it should be daylight when Lance read the time 1:00PM on his cell phone. They spend the day sleeping, and find that their food is infested with fully grown maggots. After searching for more exits and trying to escape to the roof, the stairwell mysteriously ends with a solid wall blocking the entrance to the top floor. They hear screaming and run towards it, thinking it is Matt. They enter a room with a metal bed frame, which moves and then levitates. Soon after, they document Sasha's back, which now has a disturbing message carved into it saying "hello". The crew continues searching for both Matt and an exit when they encounter a girl who walks to another room they find her. Asking her questions, she contorts her face demonically. The crew flees in fear, but Houston is separated from the others and later violently assaulted by an unseen force, killing him. While resting, the others find hospital tags bearing their names on their wrists. They eventually find Matt, who is wearing a hospital gown and has been driven insane, mumbling nonsense about his apparent psychological disorder, and explaining that the only way for them to escape is for them to "get better" at the hands of the hospital's unseen residents.
The crew continues to be chased through the hospital by several apparitions. The crew flee from a room with ghostly hands coming out of the walls and ceiling. T. C. is pulled by a ghost into a bathtub filled with blood while trying to save Matt, while Matt kills himself by jumping off an elevator shaft as Lance and Sasha are attacked by a bald and tongue-less demon. Lance and Sasha escape from the demon and enter the tunnels in search of another exit where Sasha, who has become violently ill, disappears into a mist that appears while she and Lance sleep. Terrified and insane, Lance continues through the tunnels alone, surviving by killing and eating rats, until he finds a door which he sees earlier on his tour of the hospital, leading to Friedkin's operating room that contains an altar and pentagram for a demonic ritual, showing that Friedkin had used black magic in his medical practice. He turns to see the apparitions of Friedkin (pulling a demonic face) and several nurses, who drag a screaming Lance onto their operating table. The camera is knocked down, towards a book and a skull, with Lance screaming. The screen blanks out for a moment before showing a lobotomized Lance, who says he is now "better" and allowed to go home, and gives a few parting words to the audience before the screen cuts to blue.