PLOT: An overly obsessed film student and his friends discover that the original Grave Encounters was actually a real film, where people actually died at the hands of the malevolent spirits of asylum inmates.Not one to leave well enough alone, they venture off to the asylum to find the truth.
REVIEW: I don't remember the original Grave Encounters really well, but I do remember liking it. I thought it was suitably creepy and some very suitable entertainment for an evening. Needless to say, I tackled the sequel's review happily when it came across my desk. What I wound up getting was something I can describe as so close to being awesome. I really wanted Grave Encounters 2 to be something I was a huge fan of, but felt it fell a bit short. Not short enough to really slag the film- it's still unquestionably good.
First off, I'd like to commend the Vicious brothers for writing something different. Taking a meta approach to the first film is far more intriguing than simply retreading the steps (though I have more to say about that later). The first half of the film involves internet critics who slag the movie, and film students who are trying to film their own horror flick. Our main story involves Alex (Richard Harmon), our obsessive, horror-loving director. He gets a message from an anonymous source after posting his Youtube review of the original film which leads him down the rabbit hole, trying to discover what really happened in the first flick.
He tracks down someone who was involved with the first film, and even flies to LA to try to do it. Without Alex, this movie would never really get off the ground because he's absolutely obsessed and people are constantly saying "why are you doing this, this is stupid". If he'd listen to them, there wouldn't be much to watch. Although a bit obsessive, watching Alex and his friends for the first part of the film is pretty fun. Seeing them critique horror films in an honest way (even going so far as to name drop Paranormal Activity while trying to make their own (with some blatant horror homages in there) is entertaining and relatively honest. You'll get to know these characters somewhat, although it's mostly Alex (and the guy's head and shoulders above his supporting cast- great, thoughtful and believable performance) and his girlfriend (Leanne Lapp), while those on the film crew tend to be a bit more one dimensional.
Ultimately, where I felt the film stuttered was when they finally wind up at the mental asylum from the first film, where the movie simply becomes a spooky horrorfest, just like the first one. Are there some good jump scares? Absolutely. Are there some scary creatures lurking in the shadows? Without question! I guess for me, the problem was that the movie was so fresh-feeling, and I was just down with the whole thing until it just seemed to be getting so interesting, then falls into the "why are you idiots still doing this" category, until they just start getting eventually picked off.
Again, don't get me wrong- the scares tend to be effective and all that, but it just felt so familiar that I couldn't shake some disappointment. Near the end of the film, there is a bit of revelation involving a character from the previous installment, but I felt that it wasn't overly effective and the whole paranormal aspect of things was reallllly pushed at this point. Know that if you're one of those people who has to be able to hang on to a shred of believability that this movie is probably not for you. It gets pretty silly and out there by the end. I think that people who are huge fans of the first film are likely going to enjoy this one. I was hoping for a bit more out of the second half, but I certainly enjoyed watching the flick and it ramps up the insanity pretty well, mixing in some decent scares (even if the ghost creatures seem a little generic).