Interviewing two different people over the phone can be hard when they sound alike, so it was greatly appreciated when The Vicious Brothers – née Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz – offered to be credited as "one unit." The writers and directors of last year's found footage horror film Grave Encounters, a impressive debut by my estimation, are back with Grave Encounters 2, a sequel they wrote for director John Poliquin. The new film follows a film student and online film critic who discovers that the original Grave Encounters, a movie he didn't even like very much, was real all along. As he digs deeper and deeper into the conspiracy involving the producer, Jerry Hartfield, and Grave Encounters' so-called "directors," he ultimately winds up in the same haunted insane asylum, only this time there's something new…
The Vicious Brothers were cool enough to discuss the film's attitude towards film critics, whether anyone thinks found footage films are real anymore and their next film, the alien abduction movie The Visitors. You can find Grave Encounters 2 on Video On Demand on October 2, 2012, and in select theaters on October 12.
CraveOnline: I guess the obvious question after watching Grave Encounters 2 is… why am I talking to two interns?
The Vicious Brothers: Because Jerry makes us do all the press, man!
Okay, you have to talk about this. What inspired you to go this route with Grave Encounters 2?
Well, let’s just do it. I guess when we first started talking about the idea of doing a sequel, and it was kind of looking like it might be a reality, we basically just said we don’t want to do it unless we can really just do something that we actually think is interesting, and is something unique. We didn’t want to just… I think most sequels, and especially horror sequels, are notorious for being sh*tty and derivative, and they just kind of do the same thing again and they don’t even do it as well the second time. We didn’t want to that. It would have been easy to have another ghost-hunting show, or the lead character from the first movie has a brother or something who’s going to search for him. So we really wanted to do something just out of the box, while at the same time keeping true to what made the first movie work, and a big part of that was the fact that the building, which is basically a character in and of itself, it becomes more of a character in the second movie. But we wanted to do something different, because it’s more interesting when you’re actually doing something that’s just fun and fresh. And working with Tribeca we were lucky, because they pretty much just gave us carte blanche to just go make whatever crazy weird movie we wanted to. They trusted us, so it was great.
You open your film with a series of internet reviews. Did you cull any of those from the actual internet or are those all original for the film?
Most of those are actually off the internet. I think Stu and I enjoyed, after the first movie came out, seeing different people’s comments from other walks of life, and we reached out or had our producer reach out to our favorites, potentially, whether they hated the movie or loved the movie, and attempted to get their permission to use this stuff in the actual film. When we seemed to have gotten almost enough permissions, but we didn’t quite have enough material, so we asked some people that we knew to make YouTube reviews of it and give honest reviews, whether they didn’t like it or not, and we used some of those as well.
Did any of the people you asked give it really negative reviews?
[Laughs] There are a few. There’s a few. I think Stu’s little cousin gave it a five out of ten.
The little kid in there, that’s my nephew, and his review was not super-positive by any means. So like, “Thanks, assh*le.” [Laughs]
There’s a way of looking at the movie, and judging from your tone that may not be the way it’s intended, that it could be seen as sort of a “F*ck you” to critics…
…since we put the critic through the horror. Is that intentional or is that just how it happened?
It’s honestly, it’s not a “f*ck you” by any means to critics. I think it just worked for the characters that we were writing. We decided that film school is a good place to put these kids in the first act, because there’s really no one more critical of film than film school students…
So it just kind of worked hand in hand.
We thought it would be fun to, right off the bat, address all the naysayers of the first movie. Which we had our share of, and we had our share of people that really like. But I think will disarm people right off the bat to start with some people in the reviews saying they think the movie sucks. Because at that point, well, if they were just going to outright and say… and the lead character doesn’t even like the first movie! If they’re willing to do that, then where is this movie going. I think it makes people [think] anything can happen.
Talking about turning the asylum into more of a character. Kind of a vibe I got off of this, especially with the big red door and needing to collect all the items, I got kind of a Silent Hill vibe. It turned into more of a puzzle-solving element. Am I completely off base?
I played Silent Hill video games once or twice when I was a kid, but I definitely didn’t think of it when I came up with the red door idea. I think in found footage stuff, when you’re trying to… We rely on a device to take us into the third act and, again, we just wanted to do something really out of the box. With the first film we set up that once you’re in, you can’t get out. We kind of hinted at the idea that maybe they’re in an alternate dimension, or whatever, but with this movie the third act needs to be about escape, and what better than making it kind of a puzzle-piece mystery, how to get out of there.
The direction you took for Grave Encounters 2 kind of highlights the very idea of found footage movies. The illusion is that they’re more “real” than a typical horror movie.
Do you see anyone actually believing that Paranormal Activity is real, or that Grave Encounters is real?
I think with young kids that aren’t educated with filmmaking and the process behind it. I see comments all the time, still, online where someone on IMDB’s message board will be fully believing that it’s real. And obviously they’re going to get ripped into by a horde of people online [laughs], like, “Are you stupid?” But definitely people still… they want to believe, you know?
I think that found footage has gone through a thing where, initially when The Blair Witch Project came out, people were definitely like, “Is this real?” And I think with good reason, because that movie is especially so low-tech. No one had seen anything like that, so I can see why people were convinced. As more of these movies have come out, I think that at some point there was kind of a backlash, where people were like, “Ugh, they’re trying to make it seem real but it’s not. I don’t like that and it annoys me.” But now I think people are over that. They get it. It’s just a movie, but it’s a way of making a movie that’s a cool and interesting way of doing it. So I think people get it. They’re down with it, because it is a cool way to make a movie.
I don’t know if you guys saw Rec 3 yet?
We haven’t seen Rec 3 yet.
Without ruining it, it doesn’t entirely do found footage. Do you feel like, if you do Grave Encounters 3, you could move past found footage or do you feel like it’s endemic to the potential franchise?
I think it’s something that’s probably embedded. Stu and I would feel like we were betraying it a bit at this point, if we just all of a sudden made a fully standard narrative style execution. Even with this film though, in the third act we create a scenario where we’re kind of able to cover scenes in a lot more of a cinematic fashion. So I’m sure some people will say that this film feels a lot more cinematic than the first film, particularly in the end, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I guess is still to be decided.
I wasn’t making a qualitative statement, I was just talking about style.
Oh yeah, for sure. I think if we did do another one we’d want to keep it within found footage. Our next film that we hope to get off the ground isn’t found footage at all. It’s completely standard narrative style. It just works well with the setting of this film and what we’ve established so far.
What can you tell me about that next film?
We can’t tell you a whole lot, but suffice it to say it’s a sci-fi, kind of alien abduction horror film called The Visitors that we’re pretty close now to closing the financing on. Hopefully before the end of the year, hoping to shoot it very early next year. It’s way different than Grave Encounters, just in a sense that Grave Encounters is found footage and is very rough around the edges, and was intentionally made to look like it was amateur at times, like that was […] not being filmed by professionals. Whereas The Visitors, whereas it has a few little found footage elements, it’s primarily a more classic kind of cinematic style movie. So I think it’s going to be totally different.
As an alien abduction story, are you going to be able to live up to the legacy of Fire in the Sky?
We hope so. We can only hope so. I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s been a huge influence. We love that film, especially the one scene is incredible.
Has there been talk about a Grave Encounters 3? You used the word “if” before…
There hasn’t been super serious talk. We have to see if the market wants one. If Grave Encounters  does well, and Tribeca does well by it, I’m sure they probably will want one. If it happens we’ve already been talking about ideas, so it’s a possibility.