The Gracefield Incident is a little found footage flick brought to us by Mathieu Ratthe, who wrote, directed and acted in the film. This movie caught our attention when it was on the release schedule a couple of years back, and now we’re giving it the full treatment. If you haven’t seen the movie and know nothing about it, you might want to consider giving the trailer a watch to understand the look and feel you’re getting with this one. Otherwise, join us on a voyage of discovery in the spoilery review below (or listen to us all talk about it in the podcast).
Reviewed by: Jake
Main character Matthew Donovan (Mathieu Ratthe) and his wife Jessica (Kimberly Laferriere) are in a car accident en route to the hospital while Jessica is pregnant, causing her to lose the baby and him to lose one of his eyes. We jump back in some time later while he is putting the finishing touches on a fake eye implant that he has equipped with a camera (and somehow microphone) to document his life from a POV perspective. The couple is preparing to go on a weekend trip with some friends to celebrate Matt’s 30th birthday. They pick up the other characters, who include Jessica’s younger brother and his girlfriend, and Matt’s friend/doctor and his wife. They all drive to a vacation home in Gracefield, Quebec, to stay in Matt’s boss’ baller cabin. It’s super nice and they are able to build into the narrative some convenient found footage support by explaining the dude has cameras all over the property because he’s a Sasquatch hunter.
They eat dinner, play beer pong and poker, and are settling in for a night on the deck when a big ol’ meteorite comes hurtling through the atmosphere toward them and crashes very close to the cabin after almost taking its top off. Naturally, the guys go to look for it and they eventually find the space rock. Quickly, weird things start happening. Symbols start to appear, an unseen being in the woods appears to be pursuing them and eventually, the party members begin disappearing, leaving only their clothes behind (not in a sexy way).
We end up with a game of cat and mouse with the alien(s) tracking down all the members, appearing to toy with them in the process. Eventually Matt is led to a crop circle in a cornfield that is inexplicably nearby and after some more running around he realizes the aliens want the space rock back and have been unable to take it for some reason - maybe they are weak to duffel bags like the Signs aliens are weak to wood… He orchestrates a drug-deal-style pickup in the heart of the crop circle and the alien appears, takes the meteorite and reveals that it is in fact an egg. The alien, now with its baby back in its possession, blasts off and returns Matt’s friends to Earth to live happily ever after. Flash forward a year and Matt and Jessica have a baby of their own.
What the Movie Does Right
Ok, time to level with everyone - there’s not a lot to put here. But I’m going to take a swipe at a few things. First and foremost, with the backhanded compliment - this movie has heart. It’s somewhat rare that you see a small but totally earnest film that you can tell was taken very seriously and worked hard on only to have the end product be objectively not good. Pop culture example prime is The Room. Let’s be clear, this movie is nowhere near as baffling as that, but it should give you an idea of what I mean when I say it’s earnest but does not work.
What does work for the film are a couple of sequences in which things do click. First and foremost is one where Matt is in the basement and comes up the stairs in the dark to see the door open. Next, we see the cabinets are open and soon noises appear from behind until something in the periphery moves and blasts out the door. This is an effective and tense scene that build dread well. It’s nothing new, but it works.
The other thing I want to make sure to mention here is that I found the use of the balloons to be really enjoyable. As props go, I thought the balloons were strong from a sheer creepiness standpoint with how they were implemented as a signification that the aliens were close and were also fucking with the cast.
Finally, I think the effects in this movie (visual) were totally respectable. There were moments that looked good and I have seen a hell of a lot worse CG in a lot larger movies.
What the Movie Does Wrong
You guys… this movie is not good. It does a lot wrong. The plot is a complete baffling mess. The characters are wooden. The writing is stilted. The delivery is preposterous. The video has a weird, dreamy sheen to it that further removes from the believability. The mechanisms in place like the eye camera (and all the cameras for that matter) don’t make sense or play nicely together. The film is basically one giant continuity error.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is and to go into all of this in detail would be an exercise in futility because it really boils down to all of the many things you routinely see in sub-par films being on display here, together as one. The list of nitpicks is as long as you have patience for (my hands got tired of typing about 20 minutes in). In fact, I’m still so fatigued by it that I don’t want to extend this segment of the write up to detail it because it doesn’t even matter. You know exactly what you will be getting based on the list I rattled off above. If you are still interested in watching it, then you are because of these flaws and to watch that train wreck. That’s fine, for the record. That’s exactly why people watch The Room, and I’ll again mention that this is a lot better than that movie, but the similarities do exist.
**note - It’s worth mentioning that on the podcast (which you should listen to), Mark gave this film a 1 overall and he still recommended people see it. That’s the kind of movie we are dealing with here.
Story: 5 - High-level, this is not where the movie has issues. If anything, this story is just a bit generic but I’m not willing to knock it a ton in the story category because on top of the framework of people going to the woods to get fucked with by aliens, there’s an overarching thread about childbirth and family that, while not fleshed out almost at all, is at least a bit unique.
World-Building / Immersion: 1 - THIS is where the problems all come rushing in like an uncontrolled avalanche. The complete destructive force that all the individual failures of this movie coalesce into is absolutely astounding. The world does not work, and you will not be immersed. If anything, you will cross beyond the veil into the land of being interested in just how incredibly unimmersive this movie is.
Scare-Factor: 2 - There are a couple small sequences that work in the movie but the above category probably means you will miss the intended impact.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 3.5 - I am not penalizing this much for the visual effects. While the CG doesn’t look particularly good and there is a lot of it, I have see a hell of a lot worse and this is a tiny film. Where it doesn’t work is from the audio perspective. Holy shit everything that is noise in this film, from the ADR to the soundtrack, is god fucking awful.
Overall: 3.5 - This is not a good film and I think pretty much everyone would agree to that. The interesting part about this beast is whether it is able, through its complete earnestness, to capture an audience that likes to see instances in film where things just don’t work. It’s probably a little early to tell, but I don’t think this will achieve that cult following. Mark might disagree…