SPOILERS FOR GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 INCLUDED!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
I’m a fan of the original Grave Encounters. The movie, if you’ve never seen it, is a “found footage” horror flick ala Paranormal Activity, only centering around one of those “real life ghost busters” type shows. The five man crew goes into a haunted asylum for the night to film an episode of the show and find they can never leave. The camera work is spot on, and while it takes a little bit to get going (to get past the awful tv show aspect), it really starts firing on all cylinders when they realize they are trapped in the building with angry, violent ghosts. None of them escape, and the film is presented as footage found after the fact.
The sequel moves the timeframe to the present (the original was set in 2003, though the movie was released in 2011). A film student who reviewed the Grave Encounters movie is sucked into the story of how the movie was made, and discovers it might be more real that he thought. At first he dismissed the movie as having bad effects and only being “one skull out of four”. However, after being contacted by the mysterious “Death Awaits” on YouTube (the words “death awaits” was spray painted on the asylum doors in the original film), he begins to investigate the origins of the movie.
His search takes him to LA where he meets the producer of the original (and the writers, the Vicious Brothers, have a cameo), and learns that it is indeed real and the actors have never been seen since. He finds out where the real asylum is courtesy of Death Awaits, and he and his friends head there to film a documentary about Grave Encounters. They sneak past a security guard and enter the building. Much like the original crew, they are soon trapped in the building and attacked by sinister supernatural forces who pick them off one by one.
Eventually the kid and his remaining friends find “Lance Preston”, the host from the original movie, alive after ten years in the building. The insane Preston (going by the actor’s real name), helps them retrieve a bag of tools so they can unlock a freestanding arched doorway in the basement, which Lance claims will lead outside. However, it’s a trick, and the doors will only work if someone is taking the film to the outside world; the ghosts want people to see the film and come to the asylum (the longitude and latitude are conspicuously given in the film, even though the name of the place is bleeped). Preston is killed in a weird ghost vortex, and the kid kills his girlfriend so he can be the one person to leave with the tapes.
The movie then ends with him and the producer claiming the movie was just a work of fiction.
As a sequel, the movie hits the right notes. The ghosts are scary, and the bit where the kids think they have escaped only to find themselves right back in the asylum, while expected, was still well done. The movie’s main problem is that the opening, which mostly shows the kids in college drinking and making a crappy horror film, drags the story down. It’s like they only had 45 minutes of scary asylum story, and padded out the rest of the time. I understand you can’t jump right into the scary parts, but it really went on too long and could have had 10 minutes or more trimmed to give us another 10 minutes of asylum time.
Additionally, the characters in this movie aren’t as sympathetic as they ones in the first. You never really root for them, mostly because they all are, in their own ways, terrible people or never developed enough to make you care. Spending five minutes showing one of the characters “teabagging” the main character after he passed out at a Halloween party really isn’t my idea of good film making and again smacks of filler.
The scares, though, do make up for all of this some. We get to see the children’s ward, with the first ghost to really talk to them. She goes all “smeared Kiss makeup”, but it’s still interesting. We also get a thermal cam, though they have to make a joke of seeing an “aura” around one of the guys, which ends up being a fart. It’s not, unfortunately, used as well as the thermal cams in Gacy House. The albino giant is suitably scary again in this film, and the chase through the asylum to the exterior is nice, especially when you know that the kids have not at all escaped.
All in all, the movie is an ok sequel. It’s not as good as the original, but it has its moments.