Posted by: GregMo Roberts Source:Killer Reviews
By 2011, found footage films had just about run their course. Sure, ideas such as Paranormal Activity could still open strong at the box office, but most found footage films (Project X, Apollo 18) were failing to connect with an audience likely unappreciative of paying top dollar to see something that had the production value of your drunk uncle’s wedding camcorder video. In critical circles, we began calling found footage films, ‘lazy filmmaking’.
Direct to DVD found footage films have also been flooding our VOD queues. Since 2010, there have been 35+ titles of found footage films released to DVD (Source: Wikipedia.org) and most of them were produced with a budget that would be less than what a family of two spends on groceries per week.
There have been a few exceptions to the rule along the way. The Last Exorcism was effective and creepy. And Chronicle was not only a good found footage film, but it is also one of the best films of 2012. But amongst the Hotel Hollywood, The Tapes and 8213: Gacy House, these are definitely exceptions to the rule.
There was one title however that seemed to buck the trend – Grave Encounters (2011). Directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters followed the adventures of a ghost hunting reality show production crew after they lock themselves inside a reported haunted abandoned mental hospital. The film, thanks largely due to the creepish setting, was effectively frightening. A successful Festival run and some good word of mouth when the film became available on DVD was enough to coax a production company to finance a sequel penned again by The Vicious Brothers (the bros gave up their directing duties on the sequel to John Poloquin).
In Grave Encounters 2, film fan Alex Wright (Richard Harmon) is so obsessed with the original Grave Encounters movie that he and his rag-tag group of friends attempt to research the making-of the original and the events that actually occurred during the hospital’s operation.
This, naturally, leads the group to the hospital where they set up camera in areas frequented by the actors of the first film and soon, they find themselves confronting evil forces that begin to pick them off one-by-one.
We liked the idea of a movie inside a movie that Grave Encounters 2 attempted, but the film becomes so smugly aware of its own device that it became too annoying and forced. The Vicious Brothers probably thought they were smart in their script execution, but the in-joke long gets lost in duration.
Horror fans might also find bothersome the length of time before anything really ‘happens’. Alex Wright’s prep and thought process which leads him to British Columbia seemed to take forever (or at least 30 minutes which is forever in horror films), and we really didn’t care much for what was going on leading him to the hospital where the scares finally arrive.
Once in the hospital, the movie takes on new life. Grave Encounters 2 is scarier than the original and the scenes in the hospital rooms and corridors were drenched in an eeriness that took effective use of the setting. A few more encounters with the ghosts in the hospital were punctuated by the scarier scenarios of our leads. You almost want to tell someone to fast forward directly to the 30 minute mark and begin your entertainment from there.
A little too little and a little too late might be the best way for us to describe our Grave Encounters 2 experience. Although we generally appreciated the film, it was definitely the final half that saved us from the pit of non-recommendation despair. Here is hoping the hospital remains closed for good.