What I'm Watching: Grave Encounters 2
Nearly four years ago, I wrote up my thoughts on the original Grave Encounters, and called it my new favourite found footage horror movie. Now that I have at long last gotten a Netflix account, thanks to Daredevil, I had some free time, and the sequel jumped out at me as something to watch.
How does it hold up to the original, and do I have a new, new favourite? Well...
One of the strengths of the original was that it had a great excuse for all the cameras to be there, since they were filming a ghost hunting show. Since then, many many other FF movies have followed suit, and it is still a great device, but none have captured that perfection of the original's style.
Including the sequel. It doesn't quite have the same excuse, and instead this time has a film student and online film reviewer who was not a fan of the original Grave Encounters, start getting messages about the movie. He sees it as an opportunity to make a documentary about what happened, and falls deeper and deeper into mystery.
And this totally works, but is also bending over backwards to always have cameras around, which works more often than not, thankfully.
Grave 2 gets neck-deep in metatextual stuff, and oh man do I ever live for this kinda stuff. They run with the conceit that the original movie *really happened* and wasn't a movie, but spruced up and released by a studio to make money on the failed and death-filled project.
Only a movie studio would get actual footage of a haunted asylum and go, "Hey, can we add some CGI to this and make it scarier?" Hollywood!
Slipping in the Vicious Brothers in a cameo where it's revealed they're just loser interns that the producer decided to claim wrote and directed the movie so it would seem like a, y'know, *movie* and not a real snuff film was brilliant and hilarious.
The movie spend the first act being fairly mundane, as Alex spends his time trying to make the Next Great Horror Film, comes off as a pretentious horror fan and film student, but contains just enough stuff as he explores the mystery and injects just the right amount of creepiness to keep things rolling along. I enjoy the more detective-y aspects as he investigates, and you spend that wonderful time getting to know the characters.
Naturally, all hell breaks loose when they finally find the asylum, break in, and get trapped by the same spirits as the original team encountered. Alex's friends are quickly picked off, and they soon discover Lance Preston from the first movie, STILL trapped in the asylum. And more meta commentary on how he thinks it's only been nine months, but in actuality, in the mythology of the series, he's been there since 2003. Which has got to be a slight comment on how the original movie came out just a year or so before the sequel, and the weird compressed timeline that causes with events and continuity.
Once they find 'Lance'/Sean, we actually learn the origins of the asylum, why things are so messed up there, and some hints at what the goals of the creatures trapped inside might be. This helps support this movie's narrative, and reason for being, as they explore more of the series' mythology, and is a welcome addition. I love this sort of stuff.
The creatures mess with the remaining people, as they do, and there's the same great stuff of suddenly altering hallways right in front of us, people being thrown around, and creepy as hell creatures running straight for the camera, getting right in your face just like the original. I love that unlike so many horror movies, the Grave Encounters series does not mess around. They don't tease you much with hints, and quick flashes. Nope! You want your monsters? Have them COMING RIGHT AT YOU. GET A GOOD LONG LOOK! Oh, and having the spirits start picking up the cameras and filming things is something I have always wanted to see more of in found footage horror.
That said, the creatures do come off a bit sillier this time around. In the moment, if you're into the movie, they work, but there are times, and especially looking at still photos, where it feels silly. I didn't quite walk away from Grave 2 wanting to turn on all the lights and stay away from shadows like I did after the first movie, but the movie still has its moments, and a singular look all its own, which I can't deny is more good than bad.
While I didn't love this as much as the original, I absolutely enjoyed it, and it totally works as what a sequel should be. It has some of the same tropes, but comes at them totally differently, with a different methodology and style to the storytelling. I love the meta commentary on films and the first movie being not a movie. It expands on what we know, builds a universe for more movies to exist in, and explodes the ideas of what the series could be. It explains and builds upon what came before, and while the storytelling may not be the best, it does a good job with the stuff it does.
If you were a fan of the original, the sequel is a must see, as it answers questions and sets things up for the future, in a creative way. It may take awhile to get going, and it may spend a lot of time talking, but that's what the movie was going to do anyways, so this was ultimately a fun ride with some good scares.