DIRECTOR John Poliquin WRITER The Vicious Brothers STARS Richard Harmon; Shawn C. Phillips; Jennica Fulton DVD & BLU-RAY 4 February
About 10 minutes into Grave Encounters 2 you may wonder if the makers of this sequel to the (very) minor hit original are offering an odd self-parody or total self-congratulatory nonsense. Struggle to make it through the entire running time, you’ll realise it’s the latter.
The film opens with a montage of genuine YouTube movie reviewers who state just how great Grave Encounters was, with the final words from budding director Alex Wright (Richard Harmon) who posts a negative review on his blog. Next morning he receives a video response from user Deathawaits, who was an actor in the movie, wearing a hospital gown and looking upset. Alex and his buddies then convince themselves that Grave Encounters was in fact real, and travel to Canada to track down the mental hospital and make a documentary about the missing ‘actors’ and discover some truths behind the myths.
The problem here is that writer/directors the Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) seem to be under the impression that Grave Encounters was some sort of classic horror epic. It wasn’t. It was a fairly minor entry into the much abused found-footage canon that had decent low-budget production values and a few jump scares. Instead of trying to continue the story in any form of logical or original direction, they’ve made an advertisement for their original movie, with a group of obnoxious teens so enamoured with the film that they proceed to reenact it. Sadly, because not many people saw Grave Encounters, we get a first half that recaps what happened, throws in endless party and travelling scenes, and then proceeds to recreate the dark corridors, night vision and doughy-faced demons from before. The film isn’t nearly as clever as the Vicious Brothers think it is, mostly because we’ve seen this plot device many times before, and as recently as the equally dull Human Centipede II. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing pseudo-reality with fantasy or with breaking the fourth wall (Michael Haneke’s stunning Funny Games is a prime example) but the source material and execution of the technique needs to be strong, and both are sadly lacking here.
That said, if you stick with it you’ll be rewarded with a few thrills and chills: the long, empty corridors of the hospital are perfect horror-movie material; there’s some good, effective sound-effects work; and to the Brothers’ credit the nastiness takes place on screen (a rarity for this micro-budget genre) with a possessed nurse being particularly creepy. The last 15 minutes are energetic, fun even, but it’s a case of too little, too late. On the whole, Grave Encounters 2 suffers from poor performances, stupid plot decisions and a complete lack of originality. A final shot, which flashes the latitude and longitude of the hospital for the audience, is obviously suggesting a third film is in the planning stages. At one point one of the characters says to Alex, “You know, you don’t have to film everything.” Maybe the Vicious Brothers can learn something from this.