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Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/3/2013
It's the age-old question -- what to do with a sequel? Do you continue the story from the first film? Do you create a new story which has a common idea or theme? Do you bring back the same characters? Do you create new ones? Do you attempt to strike the same tone, or do you go for the stereotypical, "If we can't make it better, then let's make it bigger!" attitude? Crafting a sequel seems like an easy task ("Just make another version of the first movie and take the money!"), but clearly a lot of thought should go into it. Grave Encounters 2 decided to take a meta approach to the material which, if nothing else, gave it an interesting approach.
Grave Encounters was a movie which showed the crew of a paranormal exploration TV show exploring an abandoned mental hospital and running into all sorts of ghostly problems. Grave Encounters 2 takes place shortly after the DVD release of Grave Encounters. The difference is that Grave Encounters 2 takes place in our world. Alex Wright (Richard Harmon) is a film student who also posts videos of his movie reviews online. After reviewing Grave Encounters, Alex begins to do some research on the movie and begins to suspect that what was seen in the film may have actually occurred. He gets an e-mail from someone calling themselves "Death Awaits" which offers more clues to the mystery. While working on this, Alex begins to neglect the student film which he is making with Trevor (Dylan Playfair) and Jennifer (Leanne Lapp). Jennifer is attracted to Alex, but he's so wrapped up in himself that he barely notices. Alex receives another e-mail which contains coordinates to the mental hospital featured in Grave Encounters. After a meeting with that film's producer, Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wilkinson), fails, Alex decides that he wants to visit the site of the movie. So, Alex, Trevor, Jennifer, and their classmates Jared (Howie Lai) and Tessa (Stephanie Bennett) venture to Canada to the abandoned hospital. Not long after entering the building, they realize that Alex's theory may be right and that chasing his hypothesis may have been a huge mistake.
Before we go any further, allow me to say that I have not seen Grave Encounters. (For the record, I've seen the trailer and I though it looked interesting -- I just never got around to it.) However, as long as one has a working idea of what that movie was about, I don't think that it's a deal-breaker prerequisite for watching and understanding Grave Encounters 2. Actually, the deal-breaker may have been the fact that I've seen more than my fair share of movies, especially "found footage" movies, which take place in an abandoned, supposedly haunted hospital. From 2004's little-seen In the Dark to the recentGreystone Park, it seems that if there's an empty hospital and someone nearby with a video camera, a "found footage" horror movie will soon come into existence.
Fortunately for us, Grave Encounters 2 attempts to do something a little different with this sub-genre within a sub-genre. Again, I haven't seen the first film but I do know that the major difference between the two is how the material is approached. While Grave Encounters offered the lost footage of a TV crew who found horror in an abandoned hospital, Writers The Vicious Brothers (who wrote and directed the first one, but only did writing duties here, leaving the directing to John Poliquin) have opted to go very meta with this sequel. The film opens with several on-line reviews of Grave Encounters (some of which are genuine), and then settles on Alex, pulling us into a world where Grave Encounters has been released on DVD, but Alex refuses to believe that it's just a movie. This allows the movie to reference the first film and ultimately follow a similar trajectory, but it takes an unusual path to get there. The ending of Grave Encounters 2 is also creative, as it moves beyond the typical haunted hospital movie into something which is more in tune with the fantasy realm. The coda then brings then squarely back into the real world.
The problem with Grave Encounters 2 is the 80 or so minutes between the opening and the finale. This is where the movie really slows down and fails to offer anything very exciting. The first act introduces us to the characters and plays more like a paranoid conspiracy film, as Alex pieces together the clues. The issue here is that Alex is annoying and he gets little help from Trevor, who may be Val Kilmer's illegitimate son. Jennifer isn't annoying, Thank God, but she's also too bland to be interesting. Once the group finally reaches the hospital, things do pick up a little bit, but it takes 52 minutes for the first ghost to appear. Not long after that, the second ghost appears...and that's it. Two ghosts. And the second one, who adorns the Blu-ray Disc cover, looks more like a monster than a ghost. I don't know if these scenes are carbon copies of events from the first movie, but even having not seen that film, I can tell you that they don't feel original.
Grave Encounters 2 is truly a mixed-bag. On the one hand, we get a move which tries to do something different with the found-footage genre, but shifting the reality and the point-of-view. (But, to be honest, this all reminded me of Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, a movie I feel that audiences need to re-discover.) On the other hand, this is yet another haunted hospital movie. Seriously folks, I could have a two-day (at least) film festival made up of just movies from this genre. In the end, Grave Encounters 2 feels like 1/3 motivation to do something new and 2/3 and attempt to cash in on the first movie.
Grave Encounters 2 does nothing for the reputations of Canadian security guards on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of New Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. We are told that some of the footage was shot with an HD camera and some was shot with a smart-phone, some the video waivers here. Once the group reaches the hospital, some of the footage comes from night-vision cameras. On the whole, the video is sharp and clear, and it shows the kind of issues which one would expect from this kind of project -- there aren't any major defects with the transfer per se, but the HD accentuates things like burry pans, focus shifts, and poor lighting. The level of detail is good for this kind of film. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, although, being in the "found footage" genre, things can be a bit muffled at times. Once the group reaches the hospital, the audio effects really kick in. We get stereo and surround effects aplenty, as noises come from the left and the right of the screen, as well as from behind the characters. Doors slamming and ghostly attacks provide good subwoofer effects.
The lone extra on the Grave Encounters 2 Blu-ray Disc is an "Interview with The Vicious Brothers" (3 minutes), where the writers talk about the story behind the film and how they tried to make it different from the first movie. Unfortunately, most of this is clips from the movie.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.