Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
September 1st, 2013

Grave Encounters 2

Grave Encounters 2
Directed by John Poliquin
Written by the Vicious Brothers
Starring Richard Harmon, Shawn C. Phillips, Jennica Fulton
95 mins

When a movie starts out with a bunch of clips from video reviews of its predecessor, you know something's up. And considering how "Grave Encounters" ended up, the idea of a sequel may seem outlandish. Given that "Grave Encounters" was about the final episode of the series, it may make some wonder how we could be going back for a sequel, but thanks to the setup of "Grave Encounters 2," it becomes reasonably clear.

"Grave Encounters 2" goes for the full meta win, treating "Grave Encounters" as a released DVD that many watched. But there are those who believe that "Grave Encounters" wasn't a movie at all, but an actual account of events that happened leading to the deaths of several people. When a group of film student friends discover that they've got reason to believe that this is a lot more real than anyone expected, getting to the bottom of what actually happened with "Grave Encounters" becomes a big priority for the film students, and what's waiting for them at the hospital is much worse than anyone imagined.

While "Grave Encounters" was a sound bit of found footage fare that packed in some good scares, "Grave Encounters 2" is essentially a bogus documentary about a movie that purports to be fiction but suggests that it's real for the purposes of the movie itself. Think of it this way: what if "Friday the 13th Part 2" were based around the idea that Jason Voorhees was real, and that those campers were actually murdered out at Camp Crystal Lake.

Meta? You bet. Of course, there's one big logic hole that sparks up right away: if these kids believe that "Grave Encounters" was real, then why do all of them go into the hospital, especially knowing what they know about the hospital itself and what happened to the previous occupants? None of them stay outside, ready to summon help should the kids be inside too long. They have, as best as I can tell, no link to the outside world, and these kids are too smart to not have some kind of backup. They then proceed to violate virtually every other standard of horror filmmaking, including using the "spirit board" they find in the midst of the hospital, a practice which has been shown to be catastrophically stupid by several dozen previous films.

Thankfully, despite the clearly meta nature of the proceedings, it's still as scary for many of the same reasons. Indeed, it's almost the same movie, especially in the second half. So for those who found "Grave Encounters" scary, "Grave Encounters 2" will deliver much the same impact.

The ending is especially devious, even down to the bonus for the freeze-frame aware with the geographic coordinates added in toward the end. It helps that the ending is delivered by an actor who is apparently capable of going without blinking for extended periods of time, because it seems like every time I see him in frame, he's not blinking. It's creepy. But that's especially appropriate. Those coordinates are fairly close to the actual Riverview Hospital in Vancouver, which is a lovely note of authenticity.

Special features here include a set of audio options for those with different levels of hardware, an interview with the Vicious Brothers, and a set of trailers including "Grave Encounters," "Hollow" and "388 Arletta Avenue," but none of these will be available from the DVD menu itself.

"Grave Encounters 2" is a sweet slice of meta filmmaking, taking some rather exciting chances and achieving a reasonably sound payoff. It's nicely done, and for those looking for something a bit different in their horror, it's worth checking out.