The directors, aka The Vicious Brothers, talked with Tribeca about their film in advance of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival...
Tribeca: Please describe Grave Encounters in your own words. What are audiences in store for?
Stu Vicious:Grave Encounters is about the crew of a ghost-hunting reality television show, who are shooting an episode in an abandoned mental institution in the hopes that they will capture something on camera. And they do, indeed, capture something horrifying on camera, and it turns out to be their last episode…
Tribeca: I watched it on the couch with my husband, and I was sinking and sinking and sinking under the blanket. I was terrified!
Stu Vicious: Did you see the whole movie?
Tribeca: Yeah! Of course! It was totally fun.
Colin Vicious: Great!
Tribeca: What inspired you guys to do this movie?
Colin Vicious: A thousand, million different things. We definitely drew inspiration from loving horror movies as children, all the way to thinking that the found-footage sub-genre is still a cool, and still somewhat new—
Stu Vicious: And fresh—
Colin Vicious: way to approach a horror film. It allows you to approach a topic like ghosts—something that’s been done to death—in a new and exciting way. So that was definitely one of the things that inspired the picture.
Tribeca: Tell me about the building: how much was a set and how much was a real building? Did you CGI at all?
Stu Vicious: It’s no set at all. It’s a completely authentic, real location. It’s the real thing—it’s really an abandoned mental institution.
Colin Vicious: There are some modifications, obviously—like the scene where they are running up the staircase and they can’t get out—there’s a fake wall.
Tribeca: So it wasn’t CGI…
Colin Vicious: Naw, just some practical builds, and stuff like that.
Tribeca: Were there any spooky moments that really happened when you were filming?
Colin Vicious [to Stu]: Dude, remember when you were in the tunnel?
Stu Vicious: Yeah, we watched that footage… We were down in the tunnel shooting this scene—
Colin Vicious: It’s like this super-dark scene that he’s shooting, with the lead actor—
Stu Vicious: Yeah, yeah, and I literally have the camera—‘cuz he’s supposed to be shooting, but I’m actually shooting—over his shoulder—
Colin Vicious: Getting his performance off-screen—
Stu Vicious: Which is how we did a lot of the movie. I’d be like this [mimes a camera over the shoulder of another person] with an actor… And we started to roll, and it’s dead quiet in that tunnel—
Colin Vicious: Super-scary—
Stu Vicious: And there was just this like, “REEAAARRRGHGGHHHHH!”—I’m not exaggerating—like, this loud, horrific sound.
Colin Vicious: I was in the back, and I was like [shocked face], “Oh, my God!” I’m watching the monitor feed, and you see Stu just kind of chicken and shake…
Stu Vicious: I screamed like a woman at the top of my lungs. And then Sean [the actor] threw me in front of it, like in front of the threat.
Tribeca: So what was it?
Colin Vicious: What was it, like a generator clicking on, or something. It wasn’t even something horrifying, but…
Tribeca: [No, you should say you don’t know what it was…]
Stu Vicious: We have NO idea what that was. We will NEVER know what that noise was. [laughs]
Tribeca: What horror movie makers have inspired you?
Colin Vicious: I’d say some new filmmakers too—even Eli Roth and those guys. But you know, anyone that’s making cool genre stuff is definitely someone to draw inspiration from, especially someone that kind of built their reality out of nothing. Like Eli Roth, a guy that made a movie for a nickel and a dime, and now look at him. We’re at a starting point in our career, I feel, so it’s definitely guys like that who had the capability and the mindset to go and say, “Fuck it. Let’s make a picture.” And no one could stop them.
Stu Vicious: Influences, too, from books—like Stephen King, obviously a big influence. And particularly with this project, there’s a novel called House of Leaves, that has to do with a haunted house, but it’s done in this really cool way: one of the things we were inspired by from that book was the idea of the geography of the place changing. That’s one of the things that happens in our movie—they go through a door, and it’s like different than what was there before. So we took inspiration from that too.
Tribeca: What piece of art-music-film-show are you recommending to your friends right now? Highbrow, lowbrow, what-have-you.
Stu Vicious: I actually recommend the movie Driving Miss Daisy. I just watched it on Netflix the other night, and I thought it was pretty great. It won the Academy Awards, so it is a solid movie.
Tribeca: If they made a movie of your lives right now, what would the biopic of The Vicious Brothers be called?
Stu Vicious: Sleeping on an Air Mattress For a Year and a Half. That would be mine, because I had to do that—
Colin: That’s how we got the picture made. Just moved up to Canada, like, “Let’s just make a picture.”
Tribeca: What makes Grave Encounters a Tribeca must-see?
Colin Vicious: I think Grave Encounters is a Tribeca must-see because it’s a visceral, horrifying, found-footage film that will hopefully shock and thrill and excite the audiences, especially at or around midnight screenings. It’s the perfect film to take your girlfriend to, and have her cuddle up next to you, horrified.
Stu Vicious: I think it has appeal for both super avid horror fans, that are just diehard horror fans—they will love the movie—but also the person who doesn’t love horror movies—or if it’s not necessarily their thing—I think could also get into it.
Colin Vicious: Or anyone who’s ever watched an episode of a ghost-hunting television show.
Stu Vicious: Yeah, anyone who loves any of those ghost-hunting shows—which is EVERYONE, in America and the world, because there are like a million copies of all those shows now on every channel—will also like the movie.