Monday, February 25, 2013

Movie Review—Grave Encounters 2

So, yeah. I'm a sucker for found footage films. I saw the first "Grave Encounters" a while back, and was pleasantly surprised by the movie. It was about the cast and crew of a ghost hunting show that supposedly went up to an old asylum in some remote area that was supposedly haunted, and they set up all their film equipment to film an episode of their show there, and as it worked out... the place really was haunted. By more than ghosts, although ghosts are certainly involved. But so might be some mad scientist stuff, some demon summoning stuff, and just maybe some extra-dimensional horrors. You see, as the movie progressed, the asylum they were exploring and filming in took on a life of its own and started rearranging its layout, changing where doors and hallways go and basically keeping them trapped in a perpetual night within a haunted asylum that had no end and no beginning.

Pretty nifty movie!

And so when the sequel was announced, I was interested. And lo and behold, it went live on Netflix streaming this week!

The sequel, like the original, is a found footage movie, but it gets even more meta than that. The central conceit of "Grave Encounters 2" is that the first movie exists, and it starts out with lots of movie reviews of the first movie–some folks love it, some hate it, some think it's real, some think it's fake, and so on. The movie settles on one young film student who's convinced it's fake, but then he starts receiving strange emails from someone called "Death Awaits." Intrigued, he starts to look into things, and soon discovers that the cast of the original movie are nowhere to be found and the producer reveals that, yes indeed, the footage WAS real.

So... shocked that this Hollywood producer basically cashed in on the deaths of a bunch of movie makers and turned their unintentional ghost snuff film into a movie, the film student and his friends set out to find the real site of the asylum and find out just what happened.

Yeah... there's some pretty good quality nightmare fuel in here, I'll give the movie that.
The thing that's actually quite intersting about this movie is that it takes about a third of the running time for the movie to actually GET to the haunted asylum... up until then it's a slow burn of character building and some pretty interesting research about the fates of the cast of the first movie. The movie stays interesting once it inexorably moves to the asylum... but alas, things start to get a little too over the top... although there is a pretty unexpected and delightful third-act development I didn't see coming. Alas, the unusual and compelling setup for the movie ends up not delivering as satisfying a conclusion as it could have... still a fun ride, though!

Grave Encounters 2...
  • ... is at its best when it's being subtle, and when the ghosts themselves are actually on screen, but can't quite keep the momentum going once it goes beyond ghosts into that over-the-top third act.
  • ... has one of the most interesting premisies for a sequel I've seen.
  • ... also has one of the more frightening visual themes for its ghosts I've seen... the themes worked better in the first movie when we weren't quite ready for the disfigured black-mouthed specters, but when they show up here, they're still quite unsettling. Even if, by this time, we really DO want to know a bit more about WHY the ghosts look the way they do.
  • ... isn't as good as the first one, but is pretty close. If the movie had managed to keep its excellent writing and script going all the way to the end, it would have been a great little movie! But good is sometimes good enough.
  • ... makes me want to see a "Grave Encounters 3," which is absolutely a compliment, but if they DO do a third one, I want to know more about the genesis of what's going on behind things. The sequel to [REC] did this really quite well, as did the first two sequels to Paranormal Activity. Not so much Paranormal Activity 4.
  • ... also makes me want to see someone try a big-budget film adaptation of "House of Leaves."
Grade: B–

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