Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
by Craig Thomas
Since the success of the low-budget “found footage” phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project, such films have been a pound a penny. And since the technology to actually make a film has become much cheaper and far less unwieldy, they seem to have become even more popular. And even though most of them are terrible, they, like far too many terrible horror movies, make enough money to keep the cameras rolling. Some even spawn sequels. In fact, the Paranormal Activity franchise is currently up to four and number five is out later this year. There is even rumors of some kind of spin-off. The question must be then, why do those people keep filming if such dreadful things continually keep happening? It is that question that will forever remain a mystery.
Yet not all such films are terrible. [Rec], a Spanish take on the genre offers genuinely scary moments and is pretty unpredictable. So, obviously this unexpected hit now has two (and probably three) sequels, along with the obligatory awful American remake and even worse sequel. As a sub-genre it has about as much credibility as the rom-com whose protagonist is fascinated by clothes and shoes, of which there are also far too many.
So it is difficult to accurately judge the quality of films in the genre. On the one hand you have the knowledge that these films are almost universally terrible, therefore preparing you with the mindset that it is going to be terrible and you pick up on every little problem. On the other hand, you have the knowledge that these films are almost universally terrible, therefore you are overly-generous to any film in the genre which isn’t mind-numbingly dull, in one or both senses of the word.
And so it is with what is now the Grave Encounters franchise. The first, which is not particularly well known, is an ok, if sub-par, film in which a small TV crew are making a show about supposedly haunted buildings. They are not totally serious, nor are they total skeptics. They go around looking for paranormal activity, whilst hyping up non-events and bribing people to tell scary stories to maintain ratings. They then go into an old mental hospital which, surprise surprise, is actually haunted and find themselves locked in a Blair Witch-esque maze from which they are unable to escape. In the end it was a decent little film with the premise being the most interesting part, even if it didn’t live up to its potential.
What it didn’t need, and what no-one was crying out for, was a sequel.
But this is the 21st century, a century in which cinema cannot help but eat itself. Sequels, prequels, spin-offs, remakes and reboots are the order of the day. If it was a successful book, it will be a successful movie (and vice-versa with movies such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy getting the novelization treatment, so bitterly condemned by Woody Allen all the way back in Annie Hall). So when there is an opportunity to make money off a sure thing, rest assured, that opportunity will not be overlooked.
Which brings me to the utterly unnecessary Grave Encounters 2, which, in a list of films people didn’t want to be made, ranks only below Transformers 4 and Ghostbusters 3, (though for completely different reasons).
So what of the film?
The premise is similar to Human Centipede 2, or so I’m told. In the latter, a man becomes obsessed with the first Human Centipede film and duly sets out to recreate it, but on an even bigger scale. In Grave Encounters 2 a similar thing happens. A man becomes obsessed with the original Grave Encounters and sets out to reproduce it. I’m not seen either of the Human Centipede films, but I’m pretty sure that’s where the similarities end.
Grave Encounters 2 takes the first film as its starting point and adds another layer of meta onto it. The main characters are all in film school and are making their own horror movie. The protagonist also does video reviews to boost his profile, one of which is of Grave Encounters. He receives a message about the film and they start investigating whether or not it was “just a film”, which includes recording their investigations supposedly for his thesis, whilst another guy is recording everything for a documentary he is making about himself. It’s a bit silly, but from the outset this film clearly does not take itself too seriously, which makes the mostly horror-free exposition actually entertaining, which is a rarity in modern horror films.
The biggest problem with this film is the structure. It works on the premise that the audience has seen the original, which let’s face it, most people haven’t. If you are one of the few that did, then there will be no shocks or surprises for you, outside of the occasional jumpy bits. It is set in the same place, with the same ghosts and the characters set up the same cameras in exactly the same places. Once inside the building, the plot is basically the same, though a lot sillier and all the attempts to create unease fail spectacularly, instead generating a fair amount of laughter. Once you’ve seen a giant killer ghost thing running about, a floating camera (or even a fleet of floating cameras) is not particularly scary. In fact, it just falls into the category of overkill, as all sequels tend to do in order to one-up the predecessor.
In that case, you might think it would be better not to have seen the first film (which you probably haven’t) and delve straight into this one. Well, you would be wrong. Due to the fact it works on the assumption that you’ve seen the first one, it gives away all of the secrets and potentially scary twists that made the first one at least interesting. It shows a number of clips from the first film and exposes (and mocks) the biggest demons in the cold light of day, meaning that once they’re in the hospital, nothing is particularly surprising as you’ve seen it all in the build-up.
The best part of the film is the first 40 minutes, which is before they enter the hospital and it becomes a bigger, sillier rehash of the original.
But for all that it isn’t a bad film. It certainly isn’t good, but by the standards of the genre, it is at least entertaining, if not particularly scary. It is amusing, sometimes unintentionally so, but even when it is at its most ridiculous, at least you aren’t bored to tears.
What is most irritating about the film is that they hand themselves a perfect opportunity to shake things up and genuinely surprise the entire audience and they choose not to do it. That might have very well have made it an interesting film, which this is most certainly not.
The only thing this adds to the original is that it is more entertaining, though it does mean a proportionate level of scares are removed, though that didn’t necessarily need to be the case. If you want to see a silly movie with a couple of jumpy parts then this is the film for you.
As to the original conundrum of evaluating this sort of movie, what I have to say is this. If you go in expecting a good film then you will be sorely disappointed, if you go in expecting a terrible film you be pleasantly surprised. It generates enough goodwill in the 40-50 minutes that it will carry you through the rest of the ridiculous plot. It is around this time that a plot twist is revealed and if you can accept that for what it is then the rest of the movie will be nice enough. If you balk at it and find it too stupid for words then I’d recommend you stop watching at that point because it doesn’t get any less silly.
It is not essential watching and is little more than a cash-in on the apparent success of the original, though it is not without its charms. If you have to watch one of them then personally I would recommend the original because at least it has some creepy moments and surprises, both of which are lacking in the follow-up.
This original was an interesting, if flawed take, on the genre and this is an interesting, if flawed take on the original. The core idea at the heart of both films is interesting, though the execution leaves something to be desired.
Grave Encounters 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Posted on January 7, 2013, in REViEW and tagged 2012, found footage horror, grave encounters, horror, jennica fulton, john poliquin, paranormal activity, richard harmon, shawn c. phillips, supernatural horror, the blair witch project, the vicious brothers. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.