Grave Encounters 2 Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Released by Tribeca Film
Directed by John Poliquin
Written by The Vicious Brothers
2012, 100 minutes minutes, Rated R
Available on VOD on October 2nd, 2012
Richard Harmon as Alex Wright
Stephanie Bennett as Tessa Hamill
Dylan Playfair as Trevor Thompson
Sean Rogerson as Lance Preston
For the most part, I love meta-movies. Not to be confused with outright spoofs like Airplane! or Scary Movie, films like Last Action Hero and Adaptation. had somewhat familiar stories populated with characters that were well-versed in film and were aware that either a) they were in a film themselves, or b) the events around them were closely paralleling a film.
The horror genre has had its share of great meta-movies, including Wes Craven's New Nightmare, where Freddy Krueger stalks the real-life cast and crew of the Elm Street films, and of course Scream (also by Craven), the genre-redefining slasher flick about kids who knew and loved slasher flicks. Similarly, films like Shaun of the Dead and more recently, Cabin In the Woods, have had fun toying with the tropes and expectations of their respective subgenres while never directly referencing their source material, leaving their most clever gags to be appreciated only by the savviest fans.
But a few films are so meta that they go as far as building their entire story around a widely seen existing film (one could certainly argue that New Nightmare did that). Most recently we have Grave Encounters 2, a sequel to the 2011 found footage ghost flick about a reality TV crew that gets stuck in a haunted mental hospital. That first film was exceptionally entertaining despite it being, at its core, a standard haunted house film, bursting at the seams with jump scares and creepy noises. Part deux is basically more of the same, and while fans of the first one will know pretty much everything that's coming, there's still some enjoyment to be had.
After an opening sequence of strung-together YouTube clips featuring people reviewing the original Grave Encounters, we meet Alex Wright (Richard Harmon), one of the millions of fans obsessed with the film. More than just being a fan, though, Alex has a sneaking suspicion that the film was legit, and that Sean Rogerson (who played Lance Preston in the film) and his fellow actors were all killed. And with the help of fellow film students Trevor (Dylan Playfair) and Tessa (Stephanie Bennett), he sets out to prove it. Initially his quest proves hilarious when a secretly recorded interview with the smarmy TV exec from the first film reveals that Grave Encounters was indeed real, but sold as fiction to turn a profit, and The Vicious Brothers (creators of the first film) are nothing more than office interns at the network. But various other clues and hunches eventually lead the group back to the original hospital, where they break in and set up cameras to try and catch some paranormal proof on tape.
From there it's essentially just part one redux, right down to the minority cameraman and the teary-eyed close-up apologies to the camera. The gang finds a few new spooky places in the hospital, like a children's wing and an electroshock therapy room, that were welcome additions. Unfortunately, I just didn't buy into these college kids being as stubborn as the older professional film crew in the original, and so once doors start blowing off their hinges and people start getting picked off, the headstrong rationale of "We need to keep taping to show people what's going on!" isn't as plausible. And instead of the restrained creepiness and downer note that concluded part one, this one's finale goes over the top with a big fight scene leading up to a Poltergeist-style portal opening up and swallowing someone.
The acting is competent but nothing spectacular, with lots of swearing from the guys and lots of screaming from the girls. I couldn't get past how much Harmon looks like a young Dr. Heiter from The Human Centipede: First Sequence, and wonder if that casting was in any way intentional since The Human Centipede: Full Sequence was also a meta-sequel involving a (much sicker) guy who's obsessed with a horror film.
Overall, Grave Encounters 2 isn't nearly as entertaining or scary as the original, but has enough new elements added to it to make it still seem semi-fresh. It's like walking through a haunted house after you've already walked through once — it's still fun, but once you know what's around every corner, it's not nearly as rewarding.
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Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.