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Toronto After Dark 2012: Grave Encounters 2 Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Grave Encounters 2

Starring Richard Harmon, Reese Alexander and Stephanie Bennett

Directed by John Poliquin

Let me preface my review by stating that I have not seen the first Grave Encounters film and as such any comparison between the two films can only be limited. But, for all those in the same boat as myself you will be happy to know that because of the story and the fashion in which Grave Encounters 2 was shot, you don’t need to have seen the first film at all.

2011 saw the film Grave Encounters released upon an unknowing public. The film was a found footage horror film about a ghost hunting TV crew that unfortunately didn’t make it out of their latest “hunt” in an old abandoned mental institution. The film quickly spread via social media and the internet. One particular vlogger named Alex, who also happened to be a film student in California, posted a particularly scathing review of the film via his vlog (video blog). Not long after his post, Alex starts receiving tips from an anonymous source known only as “DeathAwaits666.” This starts him down a road of research and inquiry until he convinces himself that the footage from Grave Encounters is real. Determined to prove that the film was not a work of fiction Alex and a few friends set out to find and film their own encounter at the same mental institution. Grave Encounters 2 is their story.

One of the common problems with found footage films is making it believable that people would film everything. The worst reason a film can give (and one that’s used often) is the “People need to see this. They need to know what’s going on here.” Grave Encounters 2 does a great job of explaining why this footage exists. From using many multiple reason (needing proof, can’t leave $50,000 of camera equipment, need night vision camera to see in dark, etc.) to be filming all the way to actually having a slimy producer who is behind actually putting the final edited film together and releasing it to the public. While there are still moments that make the viewer shake their head, at least there is an explanation for the footage most the time.

One of the best things about this film is the acting. Everyone involved comes across as very genuine. There are a few scenes of extremely terrible acting during the shooting of their student film but this was done on purpose. This was a very smart move on the part of the filmmakers. It’s hard to talk down about the acting in the film when the film clearly shows you what bad acting truly looks like.

Fans of the first film will probably be disappointed with the sequel.  From what I can gather, Grave Encounters has some genuinely creepy moments. Those expecting more of the same will find the sequel lacking. Grave Encounters 2 concentrates more on the story, background and the meta aspects of each. While there are a couple decent scares, the rest of the film is more of a dark adventure as the “guests” try and escape the evil that is the mental institution.

But the biggest disappointment for anyone might come from the reveal of the identity of “DeathAwaits666” and the actions that develop afterwards.  This is where the film goes from a decent watch to being rather silly. Unfortunately, I can’t go into detail without spoilers so if you’re truly curious, you’ll have to see the film.

Despite what many may think, Grave Encounters 2 isn’t a bad film, I just don’t think the film is what they expected (high or false expectations often lead to negative feelings). Thanks to some fantastic acting, above par camera work and FX, the film rises well above it’s low budget and extremely short production schedule to form an entertaining and interesting found footage film, even if it isn’t the scariest film ever made.

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