6/16/08

Children of the Grave on Sci Fi Channel Review

Children of the Grave on Sci Fi Channel
by GlowStormLion of http://www.happyhorror.com

"You can keep the baby or you can put it in the street." - a real orphanage note shown in Children of the Grave
Quite a shame that in order to type this review I’ve got to have the lights on due to the fact that I take the notes for my reviews by hand. It’d be far more eerily appropriate in the dark. Children of the Grave presents a crisp, spooky documentary that’s quite unlike anything I’ve covered on Happy Horror before. However, when I saw the channel guide showing this documentary I couldn’t resist reviewing it for you, Merry Readers. That being said, I do warn you that this film is heavier than your typical horror movie. As the opening scenes began to unfold, I saw that the show was a Spooked Television Releasing - a Booth Brothers film.

Just who are these Booth Brothers? Well, according to their website (which I’ve linked to above) they are Philip Adrian and Christopher Saint Booth, brothers. Twin brothers, even. Philip’s the director of the pair, having done work for the music videos, the Sci Fi Channel and even the TV shows Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules The Legendary Journeys. Christopher’s the producer, also a songwriter and marketer among his other talents. Together with their crew they make documentaries of the supernatural using local lore, psychic mediums and high tech equipment. You can tell right away that Children of the Grave received a great deal of passion from its filmmakers. It’s all put together sanely with an attention to artistic sensibilities. Simply put, I rarely see documentaries on supernatural subjects exhibit such lovingly crafted cinematography. The whole show’s totally gorgeous from start to finish. And don’t think this is all auteur silliness and hearsay, these guys actually suffer for their art. While scouting the shooting location for their documentary Death Tunnel, Christopher Saint Booth became mysteriously ill - but when he came back he had some incredible photographs that only further the pair’s notion (and my own!) that the ghosts do indeed exist.

To start with we see what they call the Paranormal Task Force going out to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here there’s a section of graves bearing only numbers - 699 of them unmarked. These are the graves of children. Orphans, in fact. From what I understand, back in the early 1900’s, formaldehyde in milk was not uncommon because it was considered a cheaper means of pasteurization. As a result, many children - especially those in orphanages - died of poisoning. Obviously, that’s going to tug at your heart strings. Investigators actually go through these cemeteries and orphanages asking "Are you lost and looking for your mommy or daddy?" They ask many questions to the spirits said to be there and sometimes they got EVPs, which stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon, something first noticed by Thomas Edison himself in the 1920’s. He also wanted to talk with the dead. Now in a documentary of this nature it’s fairly commonplace for the creators to sensationalize the story and trump up the talk of evidence rather than let you see or hear it. The Booth Brothers don’t play games. They offer their own observations, witness reports and then they play those EVPs and images from thermal cameras. They don’t dilly dally around trying to get your pity, they simply tell you the stories and what they’re saying exists in public records.
 
We get to see Bartonville Asylumn in Peoria, Illinois. At a State Mental Hospital such as this one, many patients come in without names. This means they go to their graves the same way, too. If I remember correctly, at the asylum there’s a cemetary with 4,000 graves and only 1,500 of those mark people with currently known identities. A place like that’s clearly going to be ripe for hauntings and restless spirits. I won’t tell you what all they experience in Bartonville, but I’ll tell you it’s genuinely unnerving.

There’s also an excursion into the Pythian Castle, located in Springfield, Missouri. This place started out as an orphanage run by the Knights of Pythias but since there weren’t too many young ‘uns, it was sold to the US Military during World War II and turned into a Service Club. In other words, a recreational facility. Today it’s still standing, but being rennovated for hosting murder mysteries and ballroom dances. I found this particular segment exceptionally creepy because for one, the Ozarks are what I consider to be America’s Transylvania ™. Anything set in that region’s bound to be freaky. Afterall, that’s where Wal-Mart sprang from, ya know? In this bit there’s some rumor of a bad guy who may’ve done nasty things to children. (No, not Sam Walton ya weirdos!) Using heat signature imaging technology, they actually pick up what looks to be a large man’s hands. Then one of the guys actually goes down into the laundry tunnel where this spirit’s known to be and starts calling him out! Suffice it to say that things turn freaky and we close that segment with this quote:

"True evil exists both in life and in death - we know because we have seen it" - the filmmakers of Children of the Grave

Before I wrap this article up, I’ve got to dive into one last bit of Missouri lore covered in the show. It’s called Zombie Road and this place gives me a serious case of ye olde heebie jeebies! Apparently, during the misspent decades of the 1960’s and 70’s, Zombie Road served as a route for drug traffickers. Alot of real terrible shizz went down out in those woods, the local law enforcement says. So, naturally the Booth Brothers want a slice of that action. I mean, locals call the forest there the Devil’s Woods so how could they resist? The Zombie Road actually dead ends into the Meramac River and we’re told ‘Meramac’ is a Native American phrase meaning "River of Death". Indeed, quite a few drownings happened in that river, as well. All sorts of craziness scurries afoot during this segment of the show. Tales of a quarter mile of dismembered animals (we’re not told what species) and other craziness attributed to Satanic groups.

Here’s where things get really weird. See, there’s local lore about "shadow people" that inhabit the woods. I’ve heard of this type of apparition being common among speed freaks, too. To try and film the shadow people, the crew sets up laser grids that in the past have slowed down dark masses caught on film. It’s all really wild stuff and as these events are going in, the locals decide to play a The Hills Have Eyes style prank. On the road they spray paint DEAD PEOPLE to try and scare the crew. What ends up being the biggest freakout is the guys hearing "You know too much" and getting shots of dozens of shadow figures standing out in the woods.

Oh, and during the credits I noticed the names Dylan, Devin and Dakota Vorhees. You know, like Jason Vorhees? No relation, though. They’re child actors we’ll be seeing more of in the years to come, but that chilled me a touch, I must admit.
I have to say Children of the Grave does a superb job delivering not only creepy tales, but solid historical and folkloric information at the same time. If you chance upon the show either being aired or you buy the DVD you’ll definitely be in for a hair-raising ride!

I easily give this one 5 out of 5 and I came away with a solid respect for the Booth Brothers. I’ll be reviewing more of their work as soon as I can get my lil paws on it, you can count on that! Until next I speak of the dead, Merry Readers, this is GlowStormLion heading out into the Ozarks to party it up with some shadow spooks!

Just kidding - I’d never do that.

Or would I?

by GlowStormLion of http://www.happyhorror.com

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