Hello folks, and welcome to October. Let me tell you, I’m super excited for Halloween this year. It’s my favorite time of year, as I am sure it is for many of the LBL’s readers, and it just so happens that I have an incredible way to kick off the month. What I’m talking about is an early look at Grave Encounters 2. You may recall my review of Grave Encounters which I paired with the classic British spookshow Ghost Watch for an article I cleverly titled Grave Encounters on a Ghost Watch. The first Grave Encounters focused on Lance Preston (Sean Robertson) and his band of Ghost Adventuresque paranormal hunters who stumbled into an abandoned asylum which was filled with actual ghosts. Through the found footage film, we see the team gets picked off as time and space begin to have no meaning in the supernatural vortex in which they have stepped. In other words, it was one of my favorite movie conceits, ghost hunters find more than they were bargaining for.
Grave Encounters was easily one of my favorite movies of 2011, and I’ve actually gone back to it on a couple of occasions when I wanted to watch a quality spook show. So when I got the e-mail inviting me so see a pre-release screener ofGrave Encounters 2, I leapt at the opportunity. While I didn’t know what direction the film might take, I was interested to see what driving force, The Vicious Brothers, had in mind for this installment. Generally sequels are a tricky proposition, and sequels to found footage films are even more bothersome (I count myself as one the folks who lost all interest after Paranormal Activity 1.) as there has to be some cogent reason why all this footage has been found. Well, The Viciouses, who ceded the directing duties to first time feature director John Poliquin, figured a neat way around that problem and many of the issues I could have had with a sequel.
As Grave Encounters 2 has not actually made its debut yet (it hits VOD tomorrow, October 2nd, check your local listings to see if you can get it or go to Tribeca Film for a list of available areas and theaters on October 12th), I want to be as spoiler free as I possibly can with this one, and I am going to limit my synopsis to the party line taken from the official website:
As the synopsis hints, Grave Encounters 2 begins by touching on the internet buzz that created such a boon for the first film. I admit, as a person who reviewed the film right after it came to Netflix Instant (where you can still check it out), that it was a pretty awesome way to hook me into the movie. Lead actor Richard Harmon, as amateur film maker and Vlogger Alex Wright, comes off like a guy I could have easily met somewhere in the horror community, and holds the movie together single-handedly at times until the last third of the film when a familiar face pops up to somewhat take the reigns. I also want to give a lot of credit to Stephanie Bennett as Alex’s gal pal, Tessa. She carried the emotional weight of the film on her shoulders, and her acting often made the found footage style very believable.
Director John Poliquin does an admirable job replacing The Vicious Brothers, and with a clever script by the Brothers, he managed to amp up nearly every aspect of the action across the board. The characters are more real and fleshed out, the special effects are bigger and scarier, and the story expands on the original’s premise by adding in enough new to keep a sequel watcher happy. There were, however, a couple of areas where the film came up short. GE 2’s premise being that the first movie is real is the central idea to The Human Centipede 2 as well, and certainly obsession with the first film became a very pivotal idea in Grave Encounters 2 as well as the aforementioned ass-to-mouth linking tale. There is also an element that seems very similar to the science fiction film Cube, where the rooms of the asylum shift, but along an appointed pattern. I think in a third installment that this would be an area ready for exploration.
My only other criticism of Grave Encounters 2 has to do with the running time. While the first film clocked in at a perfect 90 minutes, Grave Encountersclocks in closer to two hours. Much of this time is frontloaded with Alex’s research into the first film and the asylum, and while much of that is interesting and creates a lush backdrop for later events to transpire against, it takes a good portion of the film away from its real purpose, scaring the pants off people. While some good tension is built with several of the scenes, there is little payoff until the back half. Even the one jump worthy scene in the early portions of the film, where the hollowed eyed ghosts of the asylum make an appearance elsewhere, is never gone back to or expanded upon.
Despite what I felt was a slightly long running time and a few squandered opportunities, I have very little negative to say about Grave Encounters 2. I actually had fairly low expectations going into the film. With the change of directors and the fact that it was making its debut only a year after the first film, it seemed less likely that the second installment would match the quality of the first. However, I have to say The Vicious Brothers and John Poliquin did it. In fact they did it exactly. I gave Grave Encounters a 3.5, and you’ll find that rating, pretty high praise in the Bugg’s book, is the same rating I gave for the sequel. If you’re looking for something new and scary to watch this Halloween season, there’s not much better out there than Grave Encounters 2. So check VOD or your local cinemas for listings, but if you can’t see the sequel and you haven’t seen the first, I really encourage you to check that out on Netflix.
Well that brings us to the end of the Grave Encounters 2 review, but not to the end of what you’ll be hearing about Grave Encounters 2 this month. Tomorrow, I will be speaking to director John Poliquin and getting to ask him a few questions about GE2. I’m super thrilled to have the opportunity, and I’ll be sharing everything he has to say with you folks right back here in a few days. Until then, the 31 posts in 31 days will roll on, and in case you didn’t know The Bigger & Badder Halloween Top 13 is starting up October 19th. Get your lists of favorite giant creatures, critters, and monsters into me to take part in the festivities this year! Until then, Grave Encounters 2. Do yourself a favor, watch it.