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The 2011 found footage survivor flick GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was certainly a worthy entry in the shaky cam subgenre. Despite having some less than stellar CGI, the film felt real and put the characters in a fairly plausible situation, with suspenseful pacing, fun, campy performances and a solid directing debut from Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, collectively known as The Vicious Brothers. That said, the follow-up picture, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 (currently enjoying a limited theatrical run in Canada), is more than a bit of a disappointment.
Music video and commercial director John Poliquin takes over duties helming this film, but The Vicious Brothers have stayed on to write the screenplay. Said screenplay, much like BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS, plays with the concept that the original film really existed, though unlike BW2, GE2 still keeps the found footage aesthetic.
The film starts off promising enough with video of YouTube fan reviews of the original film, which most of them hate. One of those vocal critics is film student Alex (Trevor Thompson) who has big dreams of doing an original horror film of his own. Suddenly he starts getting strange online messages from someone with the handle "Deathawaits6" urging him to visit the hospital location used in the of the first film. He begins to do some research and learns that everyone who made GRAVE ENCOUNTERS has either disappeared or died. Even The Vicious Brothers are revealed to be nothing more than interns of the producers who put the first film out. Feeling that his own horror film is clichéd and unoriginal, Alex abandons it and recruits his friends to travel to said hospital to make a documentary on what really happened.
The first half hour GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 is quite brilliant and meta and sports an interesting twist on the events of the first film. Unfortunately it starts to fall apart as soon as they reach the hospital, mostly because of a single but major conceptual flaw in the script. The film is based on the assumption that the characters have all seen the first movie. It is also quite clear that before they even arrive at the hospital that something supernatural is happening to them all already. So based on that logic why would they go into the hospital and then be surprised by anything horrific that happens to them? The other problem is the editing. There are endless quick jump cuts, an attempt to give the film an edge. This is all fine in a conventionally structured movie, but in a film that is supposed to be found footage it wrecks the effect completely. The reason why the first GRAVE ENCOUNTERS and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films work so well is that the found footage concept reduces down the amount of film cuts to the bare minimum. This would therefore bring up the tension to an uneasy high to build suspense, which is unfortunately lost here.The original GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was indicative that found footage is a viable horror subgenre, rather than the novelty that it first was deemed. And while GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 is an interesting companion piece, there’s no disputing that it’s a weaker one.2/4 skulls
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