Released today on VOD, and coming to theaters on the 12th is Grave Encounters 2.
The premise for Grave Encounters 2 is a fun little mindscrew that, perhaps unfortunately, invokes the “clever” reality pull-back featured in the truly awful Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. So dig this, my gallies: the premise of the original Grave Encounters was that a ghost-hunting TV show, seen strictly through found-footage (yes, again), moves into a supposedly haunted insane asylum, only to find that there are indeed ghosts there hellbent on driving them mad, killing them, etc. Even though the scares were predictable, the film was still effective and spooky in its low-rent sort of way. By no means a horror classic, or even necessarily notable, it was still a fun little flick.
Grave Encounters 2, also constructed of found footage, takes place in a world where Grave Encounters was just a film, and follows a group of film students who are determined to expose the original film as a real documentary about real ghosts. They hunt down where the original film was shot, and, lo, find that the ghosts were indeed real, and the original film was also real. Much of part 2 is devoted to an investigation of a cover-up of the original film’s production, including a cheeky interview with the original film’s producer who admits that the original was indeed real, only to renege later. We also see The Vicious Bros. (directors of the original, and writers of this one) in cameo roles as themselves. I kind of liked these opening scenes, and their cute setup, even though the investigator isn’t all that smart, and, indeed, most of the film student characters are abrasive, mean, and douchey.
Actually, that’s probably this film's (and many other horror films’) central weakness: It doesn’t bother to make the film students feel like real film students, or even real human beings, opting instead for the usual movie wonks who are defined by their archetypal characteristics: The brain, the shrinking violet, the slut, the horndog. The characters are so off-putting, it makes most of the scares dissipate.
As the film progresses, the weirdnesses begin to compound. Eventually, we meet a character from the original film, still lost in the ever-shifting insane asylum, having subsisted on rats for the last few years, and having drawn up a map of the asylum’s ever-changing hallways (think of the Marauder’s Map from the Harry Potter movies). And you know how in most found footage films, you find yourself asking why the characters are continuing to film themselves, even when Hell is braking open, and monsters are attacking? Well, with Grave Encounters 2, we are also given a ghostly imperative from an unseen spirit known only as Death Awaits to “film everything.” The ghost sends e-mails, creepy Ouija board messages, and leaves ghostly writing to this imperative. I suppose when the ghost tells you to keep filming, and madness is crushing in around you while you stumble through a darkened ever-changing labyrinth, chased by the spawn of Satan and madness, you may as well keep filming.
The ghost, after all, wants you to investigate as well. Bwa ha ha.
I did have a little fun, although this film, for all its interesting new ideas, isn’t nearly as scary, or even as coherent as its already shabby forebear. Its ridiculousness is intermittently fun, but doesn’t necessarily go to the mythical bonkers plane that would make it stand out. If you were the type of person to give an unsolicited YouTube review of the original Grave Encounters (and this sequel features just a few of those very people), then you’d likely dive right into this one, either with eager enthusiasm, or ready chagrin. Me? I’m reduced to using a phrase like “I didn’t hate it.”