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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

‘Grave Encounters 2’ – Reevaluating the Horror Sequel 10 Years Later [The Silver Lining]

In this edition of The Silver Lining, we’ll be covering John Poliquin’s underrated sequel, Grave Encounters 2.

Maybe it’s the fear of madness, or perhaps it’s the uncomfortable history of how mental illness used to be treated, but there’s definitely something about psychiatric hospitals that makes them such a compelling location for scary stories. From Dracula to Shutter Island, there’s no shortage of horror yarns featuring spooky asylums, and one of the most entertaining of the bunch has to be the Vicious Brothers’ 2011 Found Footage flick, Grave Encounters.

Breaking online records when its trailer went viral and earning back nearly forty-five times its production budget despite a limited theatrical release, calling Grave Encounters a success is something of an understatement. That’s why it’s no surprise that the film soon spawned a sequel. However, by the time the project had been greenlit, the Vicious Brothers had already their eyes set on other endeavors. That’s why prominent music video director John Poliquin was invited to helm the follow-up, with the brothers remaining onboard as writers and producers.

Pre-production on the proposed Grave Encounters 2 began only a couple of months after the original film hit theaters, but that doesn’t mean that this was meant to be a run-of-the-mill sequel. Wanting to play around with the meta-reality elements of found footage filmmaking, the Vicious Brothers decided to have the follow-up focus on an aspiring filmmaker (Richard Harmon) who becomes obsessed with the original Grave Encounters once he’s convinced that the film depicts real events. Soon enough, the young film student finds himself at the real location that inspired the original movie’s “Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital” and things take a turn for the worse.

Promising a unique take on horror sequels and directed by a filmmaker known for his unique style, not to mention being overseen by the creative team responsible for the original film, it’s easy to see why fans thought that Grave Encounters 2 was shaping up to be just as fun as the first one.


Surprisingly, Grave Encounters 2 made a lot more money than its predecessor, earning over $8 million at the box office on a $1.4 million budget. However, this financial success doesn’t necessarily translate to critical success, as the film also garnered an abysmal 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics almost unanimously complained about the film’s slow pace and generally unlikable lead characters, as well as some cheap visual effects work.

Even the few media outlets that enjoyed the flick pointed out some of these flaws. After all, it’s hard to defend the insufferable protagonist and his “I’m the next Wes Craven” shtick, as well as the fact that nearly half the movie is over by the time we finally get to see some paranormal action. In fact, a sizable chunk of the flick’s runtime consists of characters talking about the titular Grave Encounters instead of actually living them. And once the ghosts do show up, it’s mostly a rehash of scares we saw in the first film.

Several critics also pointed out the film’s overreliance on cheap jump scares and demonic CGI-enhancements, with the distorted faces and guttural animal noises becoming oversaturated after a while. This is a shame, as the evil hospital’s supernatural mind-screws are already frightening enough without the addition of generic demon faces and lackluster frights.

Of course, there was also the issue of the film lacking a cohesive format to tell its story. While the ghost-hunting parody of the first film allowed for some quick and easy exposition without taking away from the experience, the sequel relies on a mix of YouTube footage, unmotivated amateur recordings and a student documentary to chronicle Alex’s journey, making the entire thing feel slightly unfocused.


Grave Encounters 2 horror

Much like Joe Berlinger’s Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, I believe that much of Grave Encounters 2’s bad rap is due to the film taking a different approach to diegetic filmmaking when compared to the original. While some of its creative decisions were a little misguided (like how long it takes to get to the asylum), in a world where internet reactions dictate much of popular culture, seeing a story focus on the horrific aftermath of scary movie was actually quite refreshing.

Not only does the idea of recognizing the first film as an in-universe cinematic phenomenon make the Found Footage gimmick that much more believable, but it also allows for some sly satire of arm-chair critics who constantly berate the horror genre without actually offering up any new ideas. This novel approach doesn’t always work, but I’m glad that the filmmakers didn’t simply offer up a rehash of the original movie.

The film’s fourth-wall-breaking shenanigans also retroactively make the previous movie even scarier, reframing the original flick as a “cursed film” that was edited and digitally enhanced in order to cover up a paranormal conspiracy, with the implication that the same thing happens with the footage comprising the sequel. That idea alone is worth the price of admission, though there are plenty of other scares to be had here.

It may take a while to get there, but things get legitimately spooky once our characters become trapped in the abandoned hospital, with the larger budget allowing for more elaborate scares. Sure, some of these are simply reiterations of things we’ve seen before, but there’s no denying that the film has plenty of night-vision-enhanced nightmare fuel. I especially appreciate the 1408-style fake-out sequence, as well as Sean Rogerson’s return as a traumatized Lance Preston.

If you can stomach some iffy pacing and unlikable characters, you might be pleasantly surprised with Grave Encounters 2 and its unexpectedly clever take on meta-filmmaking and cinematic obsession. It may not be as iconic as its predecessor, but this 2012 thriller is a smarter movie than most folks give it credit for. That’s why I think it’s still a worthy sequel even a decade later, and I’d recommend giving it a watch alongside the original as part of a fourth-wall-breaking double-feature.

Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with The Silver Lining, where we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks.

The post ‘Grave Encounters 2’ – Reevaluating the Horror Sequel 10 Years Later [The Silver Lining] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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