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'Grave Encounters 2' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By

'Grave Encounters 2' movie poster
© Tribeca Film
The "found footage" film Grave Encounters was barely a blip on mainstream moviegoers' radars last year, but its trailer apparently struck a chord with YouTubers, who have to date viewed it more than 24 million times. How that translates into real-world success I don't know, but it's at least got a hand in propelling the sequel Grave Encounters 2 into production.

The Plot

Film student Alex (Richard Harmon) is not a fan of the movie Grave Encounters, giving it a rating of one out of four skulls on his YouTube review show Alex's Movie Madness, but when he receives a series of anonymous emails implying that the events in the film were in fact real, Alex can't resist digging deeper into the mystery. Deciphering the clues from his source -- known as Death Awaits -- Alex determines that the haunted mental asylum from the movie is located in Vancouver, and he agrees to meet "DA" inside the building.

Alex recruits fellow students Trevor (Dylan Playfair), Jennifer (Leanne Lapp), Tessa (Stephanie Bennett) and Jared (Howie Lai), and the group heads north, filming their journey as a documentary to prove that the Grave Encounters filmmakers actually died inside the hospital. Initially, only Alex truly believes in their mission -- the others think it's a fun road trip -- but as they delve deeper into the facility, the others come to realize that "death awaits" in real life.

The End Result

A scene from 'Grave Encounters 2'.

A scene from 'Grave Encounters 2'.

© Tribeca Film
Grave Encounters 2's playfully "meta" concept -- taking place in the "real world" in which the first movie is, well, a movie -- shows a level of imagination that's sorely lacking in the rest of the film. It's pretty much a rehash of Grave Encounters featuring the same types of scares (pale ghostly figures popping up with digitally elongated faces), its derivative nature made all the more apparent by the fact that it shares the same setting. To make matters even more familiar, the script trots out shallow genre cliché characters (the jock, the sex pot, the good girl, the minority who dies first) who do horror-stupid things like splitting up to cover more ground, and the storyline liberally borrows elements from better movies like 1408, House on Haunted Hill, Cube and of course, Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.

That said, if you liked the first film, you'll find plenty to enjoy in Grave Encounters 2 -- that is, if you're patient enough to sit through the opening act, which drags on for 35 minutes before finally stepping foot inside the hospital. Like its predecessor, it provides good entertainment value for those who complain that most found footage fare doesn't show enough on screen; unlike most of its ilk, GE2 is willing to sacrifice some sense of realism for the sake of capturing everything that happens with near-pristine clarity. (At one point, a ghost even acts as a cameraman when there aren't enough able-bodies humans left standing.) It's very polished for this traditionally gritty, micro-budget style of movie; with its CGI effects-heavy content, you certainly don't get the sense that it's just a couple of friends goofing around with a handheld camera.

Frankly, outside of Cloverfield, the Grave Encounters flicks might be the most cinematic of the recent found footage horror movement. Watching these films is like walking through a Halloween haunted house attraction, with ghouls lurking behind every door, ready to pounce. There's a sense of fun about it all, but there's no subtlety and little concern for narrative depth or originality. It's fluffy fare whose approach isn't realistic enough to draw most viewers in to the depth required to truly terrify them, but for many, a couple of cheap jump scares might be all they need to have a good time.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C (OK, but lacking the realism needed for the found footage style.)
  • Direction: C+ (Delivers a couple of scares and some nice visuals, but the camerawork is too on the nose.)
  • Script: C- (A creative concept, but the script is slow to start and ends up borrowing too liberally from other horror movies.)
  • Gore/Effects: C+ (Solid but fairly obvious CGI effects.)
  • Overall: C (There's a level of fun involved with the concept and the haunted house format, but in the end, it feels tame, shallow and derivative.)

Grave Encounters 2 is directed by John Poliquin and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: October 12, 2012.

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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