Documenting The Grey Man (2011)

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Overall Rating 24%
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Ranked #5,305
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Patrick Hussion
Patrick Hussion
Kelly Coulter
Kelly Coulter
Jillian Walzer
Jillian Walzer
Wayne Capps
Wayne Capps
William Covington
William Covington
Review by Chad
Added: May 11, 2012
It's time for another "found footage" movie, and this time around, we're dealing with a true ghost story. See, Documenting the Grey Man is based on the legend of The Grey Man (go figure), a ghost story that anyone living in South Carolina has probably heard of. In a nutshell, there is a grey figure who haunts Pawley's Island and who warns people when a major storm or a hurricane is about to touch down - this isn't made up by the filmmakers, it's a legit ghost story that I had heard before ever popping this DVD in. There's plenty of information about it online if you want to know more, but it's all covered rather accurately in the film itself... well, as accurately as you can get with a ghost story.

So, enter Mitch (Patrick Hussion), a filmmaker who enlists his friends - Lisa (Kelly Coulter), Jessica (Jillian Walzer), Chad (Wayne Capps), and Larry (William Covington) - to put together a documentary on the story. Only, there's a catch to this documentary that they're making: they know that ghost stories are bullshit, and in an effort to capitalize on the "ghost hunters" phenomena, they're going to exploit a family living on the island who believe that their house is haunted. They'll go to their house, talk to the family, rattle some chains, use some high-tech gadgets to create the illusion of a haunted house, and that will be that. Easy money, right?

Well, they get to the house and meet the family - Rebecca (Lisa Morelli), Joseph (Richard L. Fister), and their daughter Katie (Payton Morelli) - and that is when they discover something that they hadn't planned on: the house really is haunted, and this ghost has a keen interest in the young child. Oh, and the ghost isn't above physically harming people who get in his way. This film is the footage that those filmmakers shot, presented to you courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act, and it shows what happened to those people and the family on that fateful night when a lot of bad shit went down.

Documenting the Grey Man is another in a long line of paranormal cinéma vérité films along the line of Paranormal Activity, so that right there should tell you something about your interest in the film. Some of you love them, some of you hate them - I enjoy them, so I went into this one with optimism. Having viewed it, I can safely say that the fans will definitely enjoy this movie, but if you hate the genre, this one won't change your mind... much.

What I enjoyed most about the film was the way that the (real) filmmakers didn't worry about padding out their running time to hit that coveted ninety minute mark, and as a result, we get a tight film that moves along at a perfect pace. There's thirty minutes of build, and thirty minutes of climax - no padding here. Had they tried to stretch this out with another thirty minutes of material, I could easily see my enjoyment going down the tubes, but as it stands, I had a blast with it.

The entire thing just worked: the characters seem plucked out of real life and most of you can identify with one or two of them, while the actors playing the characters did a great job with the roles. There are times where you honestly can't tell if the characters are pretending to be scared in order to ham it up for the in-film camera, or if the actors are trying to portray a character who is genuinely in fear, or hell, if the actors themselves were really freaked out and the real filmmakers happened to catch that on film. Great acting all around, and even the child actress did a great job - something I rarely say, but I gotta give it to the kid for immensely elevating some scenes.

As for the horror side of things, I also felt that it worked rather well. Admittedly, there is a scene or two stolen from other films (you'll know what I mean when you see it), and there are a few editing mistakes (if this is found footage, who was holding the camera in this or that scene), but none of this did much to pull me out of the film. There are some great scares to be found in here with excellently-shot scenes, and fans of these films or of supernatural horror in general will almost certainly enjoy it as much as I did. The DVD cover spoils one of the best scares of the movie, but even knowing about it going in doesn't ruin it - that was one hell of a money scene, and even though it was the best shot of the movie, there is still plenty of other great material to keep the film going.

Documenting the Grey Man is getting a thumbs up and a recommendation from me, but that does come with a warning: if you hated the aforementioned Paranormal Activity, you probably won't have as much fun with this one as I did. It does move along at a better pace and there are some legit scares, but it's still in the same ballpark and shares the same atmosphere. Everyone else should definitely pick this one up and see some indie horror done right. 9/10.
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