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The Graves (2010) - 3/4

From the pre-credits sequence and title, in which we're told The Graves is a "Brian Pulido flick," you know from the get-go you're in throwback territory. I'm not sure Pulido himself knew exactly where to throw the film back to: the grittiness of the '70s or the everything-goes excess of the '80s or even some '90s plotting, dialogue and casting. In fact, he almost seems to dedicate each act to a different decade. The dominant aesthetic is certainly blood-soaked grittiness, however. Besides, the hodgepodge of styles only rescues the picture--sorry, flick--from becoming derivative, as so many throwback flicks are.

The titular Graves are not what you might think: they're actually the main characters, two gorgeous young ladies with fantastic and lovingly-photographed cleavage, Abby and Megan Graves, introduced efficiently and slickly in the first act. Abby (Jillian Murray) is the slightly younger sister, more emotional and dependent; Megan (Clare Grant) is the older sister, tough and resourceful. These two ladies are on their way from Arizona to New York when they get lost in a tiny hick village with a secret, a sinister preacher (national treasure Tony Todd), and a tourist trap called Skull Village. Having made the mistake of visiting Skull Village, they find themselves pursued by a mad blacksmith and a sadist with a sickle (Bill Moseley) as well as a soul-eating spiritual force that lurks beneath the old mines.

What really elevates The Graves way beyond what it could have been is Pulido's smart screenplay, particularly in regards to the characters of Megan and Abby. If they don't work, the film doesn't work, because it's titled after them and we're with them the whole time. The first act lets us get to know them and they seem like genuine sisters into punk rock and comic books. Okay, so they are somewhat of a comic book nerd's fantasy. (I did some research and found Pulido is quite well known for his comic books, incidentally. I thought The Graves contained some product placement, but it turns out Pulido was plugging his own books--which is fair.) Moreover, Pulido's obviously seen his fair share of 'flicks' and is clever enough to make Megan really shine as the cool, collected, ass-kicking honey she can be. I think I fell in love with Megan myself. She avoids all of the cliche pitfalls without calling deliberate attention to this fact. At least she does during the first and second acts. Starting near the end of the third act, Pulido has her ask Bill Moseley, "Why are you doing this?" and tells him, "You don't have to do this." Must every girl try that in horror films? I felt Pulido knew better, plus he had developed her character to be so strong up to that point; so it was rather annoying. Then the fourth act nearly smothers the girls' personalties under all the plot.

That said, basically, you already know if you'll like this flick. If you think the idea of Bill Moseley wearing a rubber pig's nose chasing hot girls in tank tops with a sickle sounds awesome, you know you'll like The Graves. If you don't get why that's awesome, The Graves might not be for you. This film--oops, flick--struck me as sort of a combination of Texas Chainsaw Massacre II with While She Was Out topped with some supernatural touches. If you like either one of those films, there's no reason you won't enjoy the heck out of The Graves. I really liked both of those films, so I really like The Graves. I think it works on every level: The Graves offers everything a film of this sort should offer in exactly the way it ought to be offered. Pulido has an interesting and original idea here, which I won't reveal, and he runs with it. Bravo, Pulido!