Tuesday, October 2, 2012
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2: Found Footage Strikes Back
Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
Director: John Poliquin
Writer: The Vicious Brothers
Cast: Richard Harmon, Howie Lai, Stephanie Bennett, Dylan Playfair, Leanne Lapp
Website: Grave Encounters 2 Official Site
Grave Encounters 2, a sequel to the surprise hit Grave Encounters, attempts to go meta with a spin on its return to the haunted psychiatric institution. The first film (read Mike’s review) was a mixed bag, and despite some setbacks, was genuinely entertaining and scary at times. Sure, it was just another “found footage” film, but one with a satirical slant we’re unaccustomed to in the typically straightforward genre. Grave Encounters was less a Paranormal Activity retread, and more a send-up of paranormal research TV shows like Ghost Hunters. In the first film, a gang of ghost hunting types bust into an abandoned mental facility called Collingwood to find evidence of spirits. In the process, they are imprisoned in a maddening maze of horror, and proceed to get ghost-busted, as my partner Mike delicately puts it.
The sequel goes even further in its satirical approach by poking fun at its own existence, as well as a myriad of amateur youtube film critics, and armchair filmmakers who’ve never even picked up a camera. I even recognized a few of them as real "vloggers", a funny touch in the film. It’s an approach that works well in the oversaturated genre, and also serves to dish out a little vengeance on those little internet pricks who think they can do better. Although the film is self-referential, it avoids becoming ouright farce with committed performances and a Halloween funhouse atmosphere that carries over from its predecessor. As with the first film, it runs on its own internal logic: time is compressed, hallways continue to shift, and doorways still appear out of nowhere in the maze-like environment.
Taking place nine years after the original event, the film Grave Encounters has become an internet sensation. Though it’s mostly lambasted by a parade of internet critics in the film’s opening moments, it retains unprecedented popularity on the internet. An aspiring filmmaker with an extra large ego named Alex (Richard Harmon) becomes obsessed with the movie when he starts getting cryptic messages about the film from someone going by the name of “Death Awaits”. Delving into the history of the film, Alex finds that the film may not be fabricated. Indeed, the people involved in its making are still missing. Alex grabs a number of expensive cameras, collects a band of friends - budding film students and actors - and decides to get to the bottom of things by visiting the site of the film. Armed with knowledge of the original story, Alex believes they can make a sequel and ignite their careers.
Not nearly as scary as the first film, Grave Encounters 2 is, by comparison, a step back in terms of overall impact. A lot of the scares are similar to the shockers encountered in its predecessor. Images of wide-mouthed CG enhanced ghosts, although creepy in the first film, are overused here. Still, some of the imagery is rather scary, including a fearsome freakishly tall ghost seen in the poster image. GE2 actually has a nice mix of practical effects with the CG, but the CG is way too apparent in most instances.
Poliquin and the Vicious Brothers do, however, add a few surprises to the mix. This includes a visit from a surprise character, and the addition of a mysterious red door that may or may not be the way out of the subterranean hell. Unfortunately, the viewer must endure the fairly lengthy introduction of loathsome characters, as well as the long set up that takes them from film school and into the bowels of the decrepit hospital. As with the first film, we’re not meant to love the characters, but we can sympathize with their fear once the shit hits the fan. Douchebags getting their comeuppance is part of the appeal, after all. GE2 is somehow able to render them human enough to feel a little suspense once they become trapped withing the hospitals shifting walls.
Grave Encounters 2 is not winning any awards, and I’m sure the filmmakers are aware of that. Though the film could be seen as a deconstruction of the found footage genre, the use of the standard tropes prohibit it from achieving that goal. Instead, Poiquin and company set about competently delivering a film that is focused on scares and runs a little on the sarcastic side. They are mostly successful in that regard. Anyone who normally hates found footage films will likely hate this one. Conversely, if you still enjoy them, this is a middle-of-the-road offering that stays within expectations. The execution is above par considering, and though it suffers from overuse of computer generated effects, and lacks the punch of its predecessor, you could find worse ways to waste a little cinematic time.
Graveyard Encounters 2 Trailer