GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was a found-footage horror phenomenon that many people believed was just a movie. Film student Alex Wright is out to prove them wrong in GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2. Alex is as obsessed with the first film, as the 20 million people who viewed its viral trailer on YouTube. While he and his friends research the events and visit the real psychiatric hospital depicted in the original film, they find themselves face-to-face with unspeakable evil, banking on the hope that their knowledge of the original film will help them survive the sequel. (from Tribeca Films press release)
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 is essentially a found footage movie about well, a found footage movie. Instead of following the format of the first film, The Vicious Brothers (this time handling the screenwriting duties and handing the director’s chair to music video helmer John Poliquin) opted to follow Alex (Richard Harmon), a film student who “will be the next Wes Craven” (his words) on his quest to prove that the first Grave Encounters film wasn’t just another found footage movie but actual REAL footage. He enlists the help of his girlfriend, his best friend and a couple of other film students to find out what “really happened” to the missing actors from the first film. What follows, are a series of small scares and quite a few clichéd found footage moments.
This film really relies on previous movies. Not ones made by the Vicious Brothers, but films made by every other director in similar genres. It’s filled with continual references to others films and not in an homage sort of way, instead coming off like film school kids trying to prove that they know movies better than the next person. Alex isn’t a main character we as viewers really care about, he’s a snobbish kid who talks negatively about the “state of today’s horror films being all about quick cuts”, yet spends his time making a Saw-like student film and he never rises above being more than a one dimensional character. What’s unfortunate is that because of the lack of interesting characters, the film ends up being just a series of CGI jump scares filled with those types of ghosts that friends trick you into being frightened by via viral videos. It never becomes more than tired found footage regulars that were taken from previous films that actually tried to be original. Everything AND the kitchen sink was thrown into this one. The scared look into the camera/crying from The Blair Witch Project, the character getting pulled away from [REC], the circle of cameras in the air via Chronicle, all of the classic found footage clichés are here. It’s obvious that these guys have definitely seen their share of movies, but what I think isn’t realized here, is that the reason that the previous found footage films like Chronicle, REC and Blair Witch worked so well, were because they were trying to do something new and original, not continually try to go back to the found footage well and just retread the same ground again and again.
Unfortunately, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 ends up falling into the BLAIR WITCH 2 territory, with continual references to itself and the first film, and misses the mark left on a lot of fans of the first movie. While the first film, in my opinion, wasn’t anything to write home about, at least it was just what it was: a semi-entertaining movie that wasn’t continually self-referential to the point of nausea and filled with characters that you feel like jumping into the TV to dispatch yourself.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 is written by the Vicious Brothers, directed by John Poliquin and stars Richard Harmon & Leanne Lapp. It’s available on VOD beginning Oct.2nd with a limited theatrical release beginning Oct. 12th VIA Tribeca Films.