Sunday, October 21, 2012

Grave Encounters 2 (2012) Going Off The Rails

When I saw the original Grave Encounters, I had low expectations.  I hoped I would like it, but I wasn't going to be shocked if I didn't.  Turns out I did like it.  It both paid homage to and made fun of the slew of paranormal investigation shows all over our televisions.  Now when I learned of a sequel, I set the bar a little higher.  It might be another round of some fun found-footage shenanigans.  Did it exceed expectations again?

The answer comes in two halves:  First half (maybe two-thirds) of the movie was creative and intriguing metafiction.  After that, though, it was like the train ran right off the rails.

To recap the first film as briefly as I can, and in case you don't want to click over to my review of it, a team of paranormal investigators enter an old asylum to film an episode of their show, Grave Encounters.  As the viewer, we watch the final hours of the team as they fall to the terrifying power of an evil location.  Jump forward a year (nine years in the film series), and we have a new film written by original creators The Vicious Brothers and directed by John Poliquin.  We have a whole new group of cannon fodder film production people ready to be the next to wander smartly into an abandoned asylum.

Yeah, that graffiti should be a HUGE red flag, there, buddy.

After film student Alex Wright (not the old WCW wrestler) posts a scathing review of the original Grave Encounters, he begins receiving e-mails and videos from someone known only as "deathawaits6."  Much to the concern of his friends, he becomes obsessed with the original hospital (the name of which is bleeped out).  So much so, that he eventually uncovers evidence that the original cast did indeed disappear and makes meticulous plans to make the ultimate documentary.  Alex convinces the others to head to the location and meet "deathawaits6," who promises to provide all the information they need.  As with the first film, and as you may well have guessed, things don't go very well once they're inside.  The film students are menaced in frightening, hyperactive ways along with a new twist on the first movie's "the place won't let us leave" atmosphere.  When the kids end up in an underground hallway - the same one set at the end of the first film - Grave Encounters 2 becomes like a speeding car hitting a patch of ice on a wintry highway.  The rest of the film - which I promise I won't spoil in case you'd like to watch it - careens off in a whole different direction that frankly didn't catch my fancy.

I really like metafiction - stories about stories - and the first part of Grave Encounters 2 was a clever example of the self-aware quality of the difficult genre.  Even the little things, such as video bloggers in the beginning completely trashing the first movie, were quite funny and gave the audience a little nod-and-wink.  When the pace and the story took off in the strange direction it did, I felt somewhat disappointed.  It was like they added elements that weren't really needed - elements that actually would have worked much better if left to our imagination, in my little opinion.

If the film had maintained the air of just-out-of-sight mystery along with frequent kinetic thrills, I would have liked it even more.  Definitely not the worst I've ever seen, but I really hoped for more.

Until next time, my dear readers, have a look at the trailer and try to not to get curious if some anonymous person sends you videos, inviting you to check their "awesome" asylum...