If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
The filmmaking duo the Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and
Stuart Ortiz) had a found-footage hit last year with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, and now
they’re back with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2. And as they discuss below, they didn’t
just repeat themselves, but adopted a new approach to mock-documentary horror
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 (now on VOD and opening in select
theaters today from Tribeca Film), written by the Vicious duo and directed by
John Poliquin (the trio also edited), centers on arrogant film student Alex
Wright (Richard Harmon), an aspiring horror auteur who becomes obsessed with
uncovering the secrets behind the first GRAVE ENCOUNTERS. After a mysterious
someone sends him evidence that its events were real and not staged, he begins
an investigation that ultimately leads him and his friends back to the haunted
asylum where the first movie was shot. There, they find out that the horrors
documented in the original ENCOUNTERS have been waiting for fresh victims…
FANGORIA: At what point did you decide to do a follow-up to GRAVE ENCOUNTERS?
STUART ORTIZ: Honestly, it had been such a long, hard road
getting the first one made and trying to get distribution—from coming up with
the idea to actually having it released was like a year and a half, two
years—and by the time we were out of that, the last thing we were thinking
about was GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2. We were working on other projects, but after the
movie came out and was successful, we started talking to Tribeca about the
sequel idea. The main thing holding us back was that we didn’t want to do it
unless we could do something we really believed in and thought was cool. We
didn’t want to do a sequel just to do a sequel. It would have been very easy
just to rehash the first movie and do something derivative. Sequels, especially
horror sequels, are notorious for just being horrible most of the time. But it
was nice working with Tribeca because they basically gave us carte blanche to
do whatever we wanted to, and said, “We trust you guys. Whatever you want to
do, we’re into it.” That was freeing, so we said, “Let’s just do something
really weird and outside the box.”
FANG: It looks like you had a much bigger budget on this
one. You have more special FX and more locations.
COLIN MINIHAN: Yeah, we had 10 times the budget. We didn’t
really have a budget on the first one.
FANG: GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 is kind of a meta-commentary, in
some senses almost a satire, of found-footage horror films. How did you
approach that side of the story, and setting the right tone?
MINIHAN: When we came up with the idea for a sequel we could
get the most excited about, it fell into that meta nature. We’ve heard THE
HUMAN CENTIPEDE II does something meta, and people are comparing [the films],
but I’ll bet it doesn’t go anywhere near the direction our movie does. We were
trying to strike a balance of familiarity and completely new territory, while
expanding on the storyline and further fleshing out the character of the
building, and I believe we achieved that. I think fans of the first film who
didn’t get enough answers will get them in the sequel, and be satisfied with
FANG: You also satirize horror filmmaking and aspiring
moviemakers in your lead character, Alex.
ORTIZ: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to make
this more of a young, hip film, with younger characters. We figured we’d have
them be kids in college, and that led to, “Well, if the kid’s going to know
about [GRAVE ENCOUNTERS], let’s have him be into film.” And I said, “Let’s have
him be a film student, that’d be even better.” And the character just sort of
wrote himself. It really came down to the decision early on, when we were
coming up with the concept, that it would be fun to open the movie with actual
YouTube reviews of the first movie, which accomplishes two things: If you
haven’t seen the first movie, it literally tells you what that’s about, and
it’s also a fun commentary on that film. Then the decision was: Do we make Alex
like the movie or not like it? Once we said that he doesn’t like the movie,
that defined the role. I think he’s a fun character. He’s who we were at one
point, probably—just kind of a pretentious, know-it-all filmmaker kid.
MINIHAN: He embodied the 18-year-old versions of Stuart and
ORTIZ: For sure. And it just seemed fun. It was a good
opportunity to have this kid who has his own ideas about movies, and wants to
make a horror film, but hasn’t found his voice yet. And through the process of
the movie, he finally does find his voice and is able to make the film he
wanted to make.
FANG: You also poke a little fun at other horror trends;
Alex’s student films satirize post-SCREAM slasher movies and torture porn.
ORTIZ: Oh, completely.
MINIHAN: We wanted to have scenes that weren’t completely
reliant on found footage, so showing pieces of his films is a fun lead-in to
the real horror that the audience gets in the second and third acts.
FANG: And of course, you poke fun at yourselves in one
MINIHAN: Yes, that was funny. I got to be an actor for a
day. I don’t know how they do it.
FANG: Was it any easier going back to the same asylum
location the second time, or more difficult staging the bigger and more
elaborate FX scenes?
MINIHAN: Well, you’d think with 10 times the budget it would
be simpler, but… I mean, 10 times the budget sounds huge, but at the end of the
day, this is still a very small, independent film. We pushed the schedule as
far as we could, but all the gags we had written were not easy to execute, and
took a lot of time. We had worked with our director, John Poliquin, before in
the music-video and commercial world, and knew he had a great technical
understanding and could pull off the script on budget and under the time
constraints. It was a testament to him that he finished every day pretty close
to on time, and just keep battling. But more money doesn’t make things easier.
There are more problems that come up, and GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 was not an easy
film to make by any means.
FANG: Why did you decide not to direct the sequel yourselves?
ORTIZ: The main reason was that at the time the film was
fully greenlighted and about to go into production, Colin and I were working on
this “proof of concept” trailer for a film we’ve written, and are hoping to
close the financing on before the end of the year, and that in itself was a
pretty elaborate production. We were shooting for three days, and then we were
in postproduction for a long time; it has 3D in it and stuff like that. So
right at the time we were going into production [on GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2], we
were also trying to finish this thing, and we didn’t want to compromise having
to juggle these two things. We knew John is a great director, he’s a fan of the
first movie and he’s just a friend. So it was like, “We don’t have to direct
it, but we can still be involved.” And we were. We were there for most of the
shoot, and co-edited the movie; we actually had editing suites on location in
the hospital, so around day two we were cutting scenes. It wasn’t like we said,
“Here! Go do it!” and had no involvement.
FANG: Has that hospital location achieved any kind of
notoriety since the first movie came out? Have people tried get inside?
MINIHAN: I’m sure people, regardless of the film, try to
break into that place all the time. There are always broken windows, so I’m
assuming this film is only going to further its mystique. We set the first
movie in Maryland and created a fictitious hospital, but obviously, with the
meta nature of the sequel, we wanted to present it as the real place. But the
actual name is always bleeped out [of the dialogue], and that was a lot of fun
in postproduction, trying to make it as believable as possible: bleeping out
names, locations and certain
things you could never do in a traditional film.
FANG: In GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2, you note that all the people
who took part in the original are dead; for example, you talk about Merwin
Mondesir leaving behind his wife and kids. How did those actors feel about
being killed off in “real life,” so to speak?
MINIHAN: I don’t even think they know [laughs]. I guess
they’ll find out and we’ll get some nasty e-mails.
ORTIZ: I think Ashleigh [Gryzko] knows.
MINIHAN: Yeah, Ashleigh knows. I might have mentioned
something to Merwin, I’m not too sure. But I think it helps further the story.
Maybe they’ll be back for the third one. You never know.
FANG: A couple of the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT actors have told
stories about people thinking they were actually dead based on that film. I’m
just wondering if those actors are worried that people might not try to cast
them if they see GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 and think they’re deceased…
ORTIZ: I hope those people think that. Not for that reason,
but that would be really f**king hilarious.
MINIHAN: I think people are smarter than that by now! I
mean, found footage was new when BLAIR WITCH came out, but it’s been around a
while now, so if you’re thinking it’s real, you might want to take a film
course or something.
FANG: How did you go about casting the new movie?
MINIHAN: We worked with the same casting director from the
first film, a Vancouver local named Laura Brooke-Toplass. It was pretty easy.
The whole cast is Canadian, because the movie was shot in Vancouver, even
though some of it takes place in the U.S. We landed some very talented young
actors. Richard Harmon is amazing, and his partners in crime, Leanne Lapp and
Dylan Playfair… I wouldn’t call them undiscovered talent—they’ve done TV and
movies and stuff—but with Vancouver actors, sometimes they’ll get bit roles in
series but never really lead stuff, so it’s awesome to give them an opportunity
that they’re worthy of.
FANG: It’s fun to see Sean Rogerson come back as a
very different Lance Preston. Was that part of the sequel concept from the
ORTIZ: Definitely. Working with Sean on the first movie was
a pleasure. He’s a real pro, a great actor and we had a lot of fun working with
him. We’ve maintained a tight friendship with him since then, and we were
always joking with Sean, even from the very beginning, “If we do the sequel,
you’re definitely going to be in it.” He was like, “How is that even possible?”
And I said, “We don’t know, but we’re going to make it happen.” Once we
actually got to the stage of thinking about ideas, it was a no-brainer. It was
a fun opportunity to show Sean’s range, because in the first movie, he’s kind
of this douchey guy who starts to go a little crazy at the end, and this was an
opportunity to take it further. And the great thing about working with Sean is
that he’s fearless. He was just like, “Hell, yeah! Let’s do it, boys! If we’re
gonna do crazy, let’s take it real far!” He was very committed. He was losing
weight for like three months before we went into production, going on those
crazy diets where you, like, eat nothing. He lost 30 pounds for the role.
FANG: What are your feelings about the found-footage horror
trend in general? Is GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 kind of a last word on the subject, or
do you think it still has further possibilities?
ORTIZ: I think there are definitely a ton of possibilities.
I mean, just because there are a ton of found-footage movies out there, you got
a lot of people asking the same thing: “Is found footage done? Are people tired
of it?” I think it comes down to, it’s just a new subgenre of horror, and will
probably become an approach to other genres as well. CHRONICLE took a
science-fiction/superhero slant on it. It just comes down to whether the
movie’s good, and people will enjoy it and want to see it. If people get burned
out, it’s for the same reason they get burned out on horror movies in general:
There’s not a lot of good ones. They’re easy to make, and there’s a ton of crap
out there, and now that’s what’s happening with found footage. It’s getting
more popular and well-known as a device, and more people are coming out of the
woodwork with their mom’s camera and just shooting something. It just comes
down to being good or not.
MINIHAN: A decent screenplay that can grab an audience is
what it comes down to, regardless to the style of storytelling. It could be a
found-footage film or a traditional narrative; as long as the story and the
characters are good, people are going to enjoy the film.
FANG: What do you have coming up next?
MINIHAN: We actually had a call earlier today with a company
in LA about our next project. We’re hoping to go into production early next
year. It’s a sci-fi/horror film, and it’s not found footage, and we’re hoping
to make it genuinely terrifying.
ORTIZ: We have to remain tight-lipped about it right now,
but suffice to say it’s called THE VISITORS, and it may have something to do
with alien abduction.
MINIHAN: We want to bring something fresh to the horror
genre. Stu and I are giant horror fans, and we’re dying for the opportunity to
make another film that’s outside the GRAVE ENCOUNTERS world. It seems that we
may get that opportunity, so we’re looking forward to jumping back on set,
behind a camera and getting our hands dirty again.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment