Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toronto After Dark Review: Grave Encounters 2


A group of young people, convinced that the events of a popular horror film were real, decide to make a documentary at the same place where the events in the film took place to prove it. Sound familiar? While the premise of Grave Encounters 2 may sound a lot like another rather famous horror sequel from 2000, the comparisons end there. Written and produced by the Vicious Bothers, who directed the original Grave Encounters, the film strives to recapture the eerie feel of the first film while attempting to take the series in a new direction.

Grave Encounters 2 starts off with a collection of youtube-style reviews from viewers who both praise and discredit the film Graves Encounters. One of the reviewers is Alex Wright (Richard Harmon), a budding film student who is in the process of making his own horror film for his thesis project. After doing some research into what happened to the cast of Grave Encounters, Alex becomes increasingly convinced that their deaths in the film were actually real. Alex soon starts to receive cryptic messages from someone who claims they can confirm his suspicions about the film. The mysterious person will only reveal the truth about Grave Encounters if Alex is willing to meet at the same abandoned mental institution in Canada where the film was shot.

Believing that this is his one chance to capture the truth on film, Alex convinces the crew of his horror film to switch gears and make a documentary about their trip. His production team includes fellow students Jennifer Parker (Leanne Lapp), an actress who is in love with Alex; Trevor Thompson (Dylan Playfair), Alex’s best friend and one of the two cameramen; Jared Lee (Howie Lai), another friend who serves as the second cameraman; and Tessa Hamil (Stephanie Bennett), Jennifer’s best friend who is along for the ride. Despite Alex’s beliefs that paranormal forces are at play, neither he nor his crew can anticipate the true horror that awaits them.


To its credit, Grave Encounters 2 goes to great lengths to expand on many of the aspects that made the original such a memorable film. Once Alex and his team reach the institution the film really takes off. Not only does the pacing ramp up, but director John Poliquin seems at his most comfortable when playing with the house of horrors potential that the institution provides. He ups the level of chills in the film while still convincingly incorporating a creepy subplot involving Grave Encounters star Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson).

The problem with Poliquin’s film though is that it takes far too long to get to the institution. The first forty minutes or so of the film is used to develop the main characters. Unfortunately, most of the characters are rather one dimensional during this portion. For example Alex is selfish with illusions of grandeur, Trevor is obnoxious and Jennifer, easily the most fascinating character, is reduced to being a girl who will do anything to get Alex’s attention. It is only when Alex encounters the producer of the original Grave Encounters, that the film truly hits all the right character, and meta, moments that Poliquin clumsily was striving for at the beginning. It is just a shame that it takes so long to get to this point.

Grave Encounters 2’s biggest strength is Sean Rogerson reprising his Lance Preston role. By making a film about people who believe a fictional film is real, Poliquin inadvertently distances you from the events occurring in the film. Instead of putting yourself in the characters shoes, you merely watch events unfold. However, Rogerson manages to pull you back into the film with his strong performance. He expands on the madness that he displayed in the latter half of Grave Encounters, while still managing to add some humour to the role.

If you are willing to look past the painfully sluggish first half of the film, Grave Encounters 2 provides enough inventive scares to satisfy fans of the series. While nowhere near as strong as Grave Encounters, the second half of the film, and Sean Rogerson’s performance, makes Grave Encounters 2 worth the watch.

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