Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
I feel sorry for the makers of film sequels. No, really. They have to tightrope walk between giving the hardcore fans what they loved from the original movie, while offering something different and interesting to appease the critics. Unless you’re a complete hack. I tried watching the latest instalment of the RESIDENT EVIL movies, not having seen any of the previous offerings, and it was like jumping halfway into LOST. In Mandarin.
I watched GRAVE ENCOUNTERS last year, and fellow guest contributor Buzz had written a review of it here. It was another in the Found Footage genre, concerning a crew of a paranormal investigation TV show, who turns their spotlight on a derelict Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital for the Very, Very Mentally Ill – a place which traps them, bending time and space and leaving them at the mercy of the many vicious ghosts to be found within. I thought that the movie, by the self-named Vicious Brothers Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, was better than most offerings in the genre, but it had its flaws, not least of which was its borrowing elements from other movies (like the Wall of Hands scene from DAY OF THE DEAD, as Buzz had pointed out). I was not sanguine about a sequel to this, which in most instances proves to be just more of the same.
How wrong I was. And happy for it.
With GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2, the Vicious Brothers have done three things right with a sequel: 1. They’ve kept the best elements of the first movie, the setting and design of the ghosts 2. They ramped up the Scare Quotient, and 3. They added a novel twist, in this instance went for Meta referencing, setting GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 in a world that believes the first GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was just a movie – or was it? Similar work was done in other sequels, notably HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 and WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, and thankfully the effort is as successful here as in those other movies.
We open with a series of (fake?) video bloggers reviewing the first movie, and get a series of mixed reviews (in a nice self-effacing touch, many of the negative reviews touch on real issues people had with the movie). The last reviewer we see is Alex (Richard Harmon), a college film student spending his time masturbating to Internet porn and making his own crappy Saw rip-off with his friends Jennifer (Leanne Lapp), Trevor (Dylan Playfair), Tessa (Stephanie Bennett) and Jared (Howie Lai).
Then an online fan of Alex’s blogs named DeathAwaits666 (bet it’s my Mom) sends him footage seemingly from GRAVE ENCOUNTERS but not part of the final cut. This intrigues Alex, as do the subsequent messages and gifts: news clippings suggesting none of the movie’s cast and crew have been seen since the production, and GPS coordinates leading to the actual site which served as the fictional Collingwood Hospital (in another nice touch, every reference to the hospital’s real name is bleeped out of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2).
Alex first visits the house of the first movie’s star, Sean Rogerson, but only his senile mother remains, and a nurse who states that Sean hadn’t been seen in years. Then Alex visits the movie’s producer Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson), who threatens legal action against Alex and warns him that there’s far more going on with the movie than anyone knows.
Jennifer and the others remain sceptical – until they see the hidden camera footage Alex took of Hartfield, and decide to go along to the hospital where DeathAwaits claims he lives near, and will meet them. They drive up, get chased off by a zealous guard (Sean Tysen) but resolve to return at 3am, when DeathAwaits will meet them in one of the hospital’s underground tunnels.
Yeah, that’s gonna work out fine.
They do return, not finding DeathAwaits but visiting many of the same places seen in the first film (and indulging in a thermal image fart gag I saw Hugh Laurie do in a sketch on SNL several years ago) before finding a spirit board, and using it contact the other side. What could possibly go wrong?
The spirit board reacts like a tweenie at a Bieber concert, cannon fodder get flung through windows and pulled into darkness, the guards finds them but promptly vanishes in a hail of I Told You Sos. Alex and two others survive, and in fact escape to their car, return to their hotel and pack up to get the hell out of Dodge. But their hotel elevator deposits them back in the hospital… where they find a member of the original GRAVE ENCOUNTERS cast still alive, albeit looking a little like Gollum’s redneck cousin…
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 works. The scares are there, frequent and more varied, making me jump in more than one place, although at times there seemed like there was too many, if that makes any sense) while expanding on the mythology only hinted at in the first movie. The acting was adequate enough, and there was overall less the annoying “shakycam” that proves more distracting than chilling (thanks to rookie director John Poliquin for not overdoing it).
It has its faults, though. For one thing, the first half of the movie, where Alex investigates what’s going on, is overlong (it’s forty-five minutes in before we get to the Spirit Board scene). Ten minutes could have easily been trimmed out (the opening Halloween party, for instance, and visiting Sean Rogerson’s mother) and made it a tighter film.
The other faulty I had with it was its use of shots and images seen in other movies: zombie children, victims being dragged onto the darkness by invisible forces, energy vortexes, and a spirit surgical scene that was all but stolen from the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL remake (I know that both movies share similar settings, but come on…)
But I don’t want to put anyone off seeing this, it’s definitely an example of a sequel done right. It’s available on several VOD media, in limited theatre release, and the trailer is here.
Director: John Poliquin
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien