Grave Encounters 2

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Picking up shortly after where we finished on the first film, GE2 is that curio of the horror genre – the sequel, which acts as both a sequel and a remake. The film largely treads the same ground as the first, albeit with a different group of characters, but at the same time ties together a few loose threads from the first, offers some new mythology, and attempts to propel the series in a new direction. It doesn’t always work, and the film threatens to lose its way towards the end, and while not as frightening as the first due to a variety of similar scare techniques, it hits more than it misses and is well worth a watch.

Grave Encounters 2 is a meta spin on the shaky-cam sub genre; The film opens by telling us of the surprise success of the first film, showing a bunch of vloggers and reviewers giving their thoughts on it. We flip to one such fan, film student Alex, who decides to make a documentary about the first film with the conceit being that he believes the events of the first film to be real. It’s like a reversal of the real life events which followed the release of Cannibal Holocaust (with the filmmakers having to prove to Courts that they had not made a snuff movie). Alex investigates further and finds out that everyone involved in the first film has either gone missing or died (aside from the directors and producer). After some online probing, he receives an invitation to the abandoned asylum where the original movie was shot. With his film student friends in tow, he sets of to make his own film.

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From this point on the movie follows the same process as the first movie – the gang are locked inside, freaked out by some subtle events, and are unable to escape. Things quickly get out of hand, lives are lost, and the survivors try to get out at any cost. Many of the scares are the same -same style, same rooms from the original, but in some cases with a bigger oomph. Even when they are telegraphed they’re still effective, and I have to admire that I had a lot of fun with this one too. It was enjoyable to revisit the sets we were familiar with, and the film plays a lot more with reality which was one of the aspects I loved about the original. There is a section of Grave Encounters 2 when it genuinely seems like everything is going to be okay, that they have genuinely escaped (leaving you to wonder what the rest of the running time will consist of), only for the rug to be pulled away once more. The mythology is expanded upon, we meet a familiar face, and the film takes a final twist towards the end leaving things open-ended enough for another entry.

Although the cast isn’t particularly notable, I do feel it is better this time around, or at least we learn a little bit more about this group. Richard Harmon and Leanne Lapp are both good, as is a performance by one of the original’s cast. The effects are again a mixture of old fashioned magic tricks and CG – the CG looking a little better than the original but still fairly silly. That sense of inevitability, joined with the pace mean a fun time all round like the first. If you liked the first there shouldn’t be a reason why you wouldn’t get a kick out of this too – unless you don’t like the potentially confusing meta and mythology expansion.

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Let us know in the comments what you thought of this sequel – did it live up (or down) to your expectations or did it surprise you?

Grave Encounters

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I’ve never watched any of those Most Haunted type shows but I enjoy a good ghost story, Creepypasta, or shaky cam horror movie as much as anyone, and I’ll forgive any budget, acting, or other concerns if the movie does what it is supposed to – scare. Grave Encounters has a number of issues to be concerned about, but it also has good jump scares, creates some high moments of tension, and is overall a fun time.

If you’ve seen any films like this before then you’ll know the basic formula. A group of people, armed with audio and video (or digital) equipment set out to capture proof of X. A few bizarre and slight events occur at the offset exciting the group, but these events soon escalate until each member is fighting for their life. Grave Encounters is no different in that respect, but it harnesses the ripe for satire nature of the aforementioned Most Haunted shows – shows where self-important and deluded people manipulate themselves and the audience for views. Within this movie, Grave Encounters was one such show; Only five episodes were aired, showing presenter Lance Preston going around various supposedly haunted sites in the USA. Episode 6, we are told, was to focus on the famous Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital (in reality Riverview Hospital – which you’ll recognise from a host of shows and movies). Collingwood has been closed for decades and has always faced rumours and stories about being the most haunted place in America. We meet the crew – mostly charlatans or typical crew members just going about their job as anyone would. After a brief tour and some interviews, the crew are locked in the hospital by the caretaker as night falls.

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Early thrills are by the numbers – doors and windows opening and closing, creepy wheelchairs moving by themselves, strange sounds emanating from the dark corridors. Things soon ramp up when the occult expert Sasha has a brush with something on camera. Freaking out, the group decides to wait for dawn in one room together. Dawn comes and goes, but outside it is perpetual night and all attempts at escape simply lead back to the hospital. It’s at this point where the Vicious Brothers tighten the noose, throwing some inventive scares at us. Many of these are similar to what have been experience on Paranormal Activity but with a greater emphasis on effects and energy. By the film’s end there are some events which hint at time looping upon itself or becoming uncertain, and we get the sense that no-one is getting out.

I had a lot of fun with Grave Encounters; it’s a perfect popcorn horror movie, best experience in a screaming crowd. That said, much of it has been seen and done before and aside from Sean Rogerson as Lance, the cast is interchangeable and unremarkable. Those CG face effects are pretty ropey the first time you see them and you know they’re going to look rapidly more ridiculous as time marches one. But the film has a big bag of tricks which the directors are more than happy to tear open and lob at you as if they are clearing a nursery of grenades. I appreciate the attempt at explanation which hints at a wider story, but the film could have been just as effective with no explanation at all. This is all explored more in the sequel – as are some of the tricks which the hospital or its inhabitants play on those unfortunate enough to enter. I do enjoy films which trick the viewer into thinking there is an obvious escape or solution, only to make it clear to us that the world of the film isn’t playing by our rules – opening a door to find a brick wall behind it, or the rewinding of the camera in Funny Games come to mind. Grave Encounters experiments with these ideas and makes the movie that bit more interesting.

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Horror fans should recommend this as one of the better found footage movies of the recent million or so – it’s entertaining, has a good premise, decent execution, and some interesting ideas. The films moves swiftly, the scares and excitement come thick and fast, and the story leaves room for discussion and further entries. Let us know in the comments if you have seen Grave Encounters and what you thought of it!