Review: Grave Encounters 2

Grave Encounters 2 (2012)

Directed by John Poliquin

Written by The Vicious Brothers

Starring Reese Alexander, Stephanie Bennett and Jeffrey Bowyer –Chapman

The found footage style is one that is choking the horror genre currently.  Thanks to Paranormal Activity everyone and their mother has jumped on the bandwagon of producing a found footage feature, and the results are of course very mixed, and with Netflix and its streaming service taking over the job of the video store, the marketplace is being flooded with films and unfortunately the gems sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

 

One of those gems was a film I watched on a whim called Grave Encounters.  From the title and synopsis I figured I was in for just another low budget, found footage schlock fest. What I got was one of the most entertaining and downright creepy found footage ghost films I’d seen.  The premise was tried and true, a group of paranormal investigators head off to an abandoned mental hospital, and all hell breaks loose.  While I had a few issues with the original Grave Encounters, mostly stemming from what I felt was an over use of the distended, screaming face effect on the ghosts, I applauded the film for it’s smart writing, not only nailing the tone and style of several paranormal investigation shows currently on cable (Ghost Adventures and Paranormal State are clear influences) but also how they captured a sense of fun and humor at the beginning of the film and then spinning that into terror as the film revs up.

Needless to say when I heard there were plans for a Grave Encounters 2 my attention was piqued.  The first trailer released for Grave Encounters 2 left me feeling a little disappointed and a little confused, disappointed because the distended ghost face that I had complained about from the original was back and confused because the premise seemed somewhat odd.

Sequels are always tricky business, and all too often they can go horribly awry, typically because the story isn’t strong enough to sustain the running time of the film.  Grave Encounters 2 picks up from the perspective that the original film was just that, a work of fiction, but one young man is convinced it’s real, and he’s going to investigate the old hospital for himself.

This is where I was initially confused by the story for this film. If you were to think that Grave Encounters was real, why in the hell would you go back to the hospital where everything had happened?  Weren’t the events of the first film enough of a warning?

For Alex Wright (Richard Harmon), proving that Grave Encounters really happened becomes his obsession, and to be honest, I was initially turned off by the character and most of the cast when first introduced.  Alex is a film student who opens the film giving Grave Encounters a one out of four skulls on his video review show, but after receiving a bizarre video depicting one of the characters from the original film from a user by the name of ”Death Awaits” Alex becomes obsessed with the original film and thus the story moves forward.

The first twenty odd minutes of this film didn’t grab me, I wasn’t crazy about the characters, and Alex’s obsession came off as more annoying than anything else.  It wasn’t until the re-introduction of the producer character from the original film that I found myself more invested in the film.

Alex convinces his classmates/film crew to come along with him to the abandoned hospital to help him create his documentary to prove that the original Grave Encounters was real.

I won’t say anymore about the plot because if I do I’ll be giving away a solid sequel.  Grave Encounters 2 does exactly what you want a sequel to do, expanding on the mythology of the original without rehashing what we already saw. There are a few repeated scares brought back from the original, but this time around they are bigger and better.

The visuals in this film play into the story well, as the first film had a very reality TV style to how it was shot, Grave Encounters 2 has more cinematic quality to it, giving us less of the grainy night vision and more clear shots, not to mention some fantastic use of perspective.

Despite its rough start, I found myself genuinely enjoying Grave Encounters 2, especially the last forty minutes or so when the story goes completely and utterly bat shit crazy.  There are only a couple of points where the CGI effects came off as being a bit dodgy and noticeably CG, but these were few and far between, and the use of practical effects helped to ground the film, and thankfully there is much less of the distended ghost face in this film than there was in the original, though the effect works perfectly in two sequences, the one on the poster for the film being one of them.

While I wasn’t as invested in this group of characters as I was the original Grave Encounters cast, all the actors were suitably convincing with Sean Rogerson being the absolute standout. Grave Encounters 2 balances the difficult task of expanding on the original source material and The Vicious Brothers do an excellent job, breaking the fourth wall and offering the subtle tearing at the edges of our reality that so few found footage films mange to achieve while grounding the film in just enough reality for the whole thing to work.

My only question is where do we go from here?

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