Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grave Encounters 2 (2012)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Alex Wright (Richard Harmon) is a young film student and director, and he’s a passionate horror fan. Alex reviews Grave Encounters 2011 for a video blog post, and Alex dismisses Grave Encounters as another lame low budget horror film. As time passes, Alex notices a few red flags in the production credits, and Alex develops an obsession for Grave Encounters.

Alex believes Grave Encounters was a real film with real ghosts, spirits, demons, and deaths. The entire crew from Grave Encounters is missing, and a visit to Lance Preston’s (real name Sean Rogerson) mother doesn’t help anything, because Lance’s mother is suffering from a bad case of dementia. Alex runs into another roadblock after a meeting with an uncooperative Jerry Hartfield (Ben Wlikinson), the executive producer of Grave Encounters. Although, Alex receives a helping hand via YouTube messages from an anonymous source named DeathAwaits666. DeathAwaits666 invites Alex to a meeting at Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital at 3:00 am sharp, and Alex agrees. Grave Encounters is the number one priority on Alex’s list, so Alex immediately cancels production for his new horror movie.

Motivated by his mission to find the truth, Alex convinces his team to work on a documentary to expose all the secrets behind the first Grave Encounters. Alex receives support from his cameramen Trevor Thompson (Dylan Playfair) and Jared Lee (Howie Lai), a camerawoman named Tessa Hamill (Stephanie Bennett), and Jennifer Parker (Leanne Lapp), the lone actress in the group. A pesky security guard (Sean Tyson) is determined to ruin Alex’s movie at Collingwood, but Alex and his team are forced to deal with a bigger problem, when DeathAwaits666 attacks.

The group struggles to locate an exit in Collingwood’s tricky maze, and the situation becomes more complex, when a feral Sean Rogerson appears. For nine years, Rogerson survived in Collingwood by eating rats, and Rogerson had more than enough time to study Collingwood’s layout, and Rogerson is the only one, who can anticipate Collingwood’s traps. After years of searching, Rogerson found a big red door wrapped in chains on the lower levels of Collingwood.

The red door could lead to the only exit in Collingwood, so Alex and his group team up with Rogerson. The evil forces of Collingwood eliminate members of Alex’s team one by one during separate attacks, and Rogerson’s erratic behavior worries Trevor. Alex plans to escape Collingwood with all the recorded footage intact, but an unexpected request complicates a life-or-death dilemma…….

Sean Rogerson delivers the best performance here, easily. I’m not saying Rogerson deserves an Oscar or a Golden Globe, but he’s the best in a mediocre bunch. The dirty and hairy wildman look helps, and Rogerson is believable as the deranged recluse.

Grave Encounters 2 takes a more serious approach to breaking the fourth wall. The movie opens with an intro of random video bloggers (including Alex) praising and trashing Grave Encounters 2011, and Alex does some research to find more info for the whereabouts of the cast members and crew, who worked on the original film. At Collingwood, Alex and his team retrace the original crew’s steps to analyze and explore the mysteries behind their deaths and disappearances.

Every now and then, the approach to be more realistic annoyed me for one big reason: Grave Encounters 2 is too full of itself. There’s a scene, where Alex  pins a hidden camera onto his clothes during a meeting with Hartfield at a  film studio. Alex had plans to force a confession out of Hartfield about the truth behind Grave Encounters, but Hartfield wouldn’t budge an inch. Anyway, during the scene at the studio, Hartfield constantly praises his own brilliance for deceiving the viewers, and the genius behind his plans (using The Vicious Brothers, the writers and directors of the original and the screenwriters for the sequel, as interns, using no-name actors and actresses for the original, etc.) to produce Grave Encounters.

On top of all that, I rolled my eyes during a few scenes at Collingwood. Alex and his crew are dissecting the What-ifs behind the events of Grave Encounters, and you can feel a sense of amazement from the main characters, as they’re studying the deaths of everyone from the first film (i.e. T.C. being pulled into the bathtub full of blood). Look, I enjoyed Grave Encounters 2011, but let’s not kid ourselves here. At BEST Grave Encounters was an above average found-footage horror film/guilty pleasure. So it’s kind of annoying, when the sequel constantly pats itself on the back with a “Hey! We’re smart!” smile.

What’s behind the red door? Freedom. Well, not for Rogerson. It’s nighttime, and the remaining survivors are sleeping. Jared and Tessa are dead, Jennifer and Alex are sleeping together, and Trevor takes a trip to the bathroom. Meanwhile, the evil forces of Collingwood order Rogerson to kill Trevor. Moments later, Rogerson murders Trevor. Jennifer and Alex need the bolt cutters to break the chains on the big red door, and they use Rogerson’s map to navigate Collingwood’s tricky maze to find their bag of tools.

At the red door, the evil forces reveal their plans. First, someone has to finish Rogerson’s movie, and release the finished product to the public. Second, the evil forces will only allow ONE person to leave Collingwood. During the fight to the death between Rogerson and Alex, the evil forces open a vortex in the wall, and Rogerson is sucked into the abyss. Alex and Jennifer are the sole survivors…..but Alex remembers the request. A demented Alex bludgeons Jennifer to death by repeatedly smashing the camera into her face. The red door opens, and as Alex leaves, the door crumbles behind him. As the sole survivor and a free man, Alex walks into an open field outside of Collingwood. Eventually, a wandering Alex is arrested by two cops in the middle of a busy street.

Alex murdered Jennifer for two reasons. He wanted to be the sole survivor, and he wanted to give Jennifer her perfect death scene (earlier in the movie, Jennifer stresses the importance of having the perfect death scene). To close out the movie, a disturbed Alex is sitting next to Jerry Hartfield, and they’re discussing Alex’s recorded footage for Grave Encounters 2. Hartfield corrects his mistake, when he reminds everyone Grave Encounters 2 isn’t a real horror film (to open the original, Hartfield told the audience the truth, when he stressed the authenticity of Grave Encounters).

A few problems here. First, why did Alex transform into this sociopathic murderer out of nowhere? He’s fighting Rogerson to the death to protect Jennifer, and a few moments later, he obeys the forces in Collingwood, and he murders Jennifer? The same woman he swore to protect and rescue throughout the movie? I don’t get it, and I don’t care how you spin it, Alex murdering Jennifer, and joining forces with Hartfield at the end doesn’t make any sense. Second, why, WHY would you trust Rogerson? We’re talking about a mentally disturbed guy, who’s been locked inside a haunted hospital for nine years, and he’s been eating live rats to survive. You trust this guy? Unbelievable.

So let me get this straight, as an aspiring horror filmmaker, Alex wants to do something different, because he’s tired of generic and formulaic horror films. Okay, so you decide to make another found-footage/documentary “This actually happened in real life!” horror film? Seriously?

Also, there’s a HUGE gap in logic for Alex’s motivations to find out more about Grave Encounters. If you believe everything in Grave Encounters 2011 is real, why in the name of all things holy would you risk your lives and your friends/crew’s lives to discover the truth? If we’re following Alex’s thought process, he KNOWS demons, ghosts, and other evil forces control Collingwood, and you’re going to dive head first into the madness?

And there’s no way around this, but Alex isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I get the point of needing some inside info to help with your research on Collingwood, but you’re going to trust an anonymous YouTube user named DeathAwaits666???? Of course, DeathAwaits666 is an evil spirit, who makes an appearance via Ouija board (Alex finds the Ouija board, and DeathAwaits666 uses the board to spell out the name. Yeah, we’ve all seen this trick in numerous horror films so many times) at 3:00am, and DeathAwaits666 attacks everyone surrounding the Ouija board. They should’ve changed DeathAwaits666 YouTube name to ImGoingToKillYou@3am for more laughs.

Grave Encounters 2 won’t set the bar for successful horror sequels, but the follow-up film features a few redeeming qualities. The spooky tension inside Collingwood helps the sporadic scenes of terror, a few gross-out scenes are guaranteed to pull a reaction out of you (Rogerson eating a live and struggling rat…..yuck), and the death scenes are brutal (i.e. Trevor’s death scene, Jared’s death, and the security guard’s death scene. To give you more info, the security guard is electrocuted to death, and his convulsing body catches fire), and the big red door really works as the most ominous and creepy image in Grave Encounters 2.

To add to that, there’s a scene, where Trevor, Alex, and Jennifer “escape” Collingwood. They go outside to see Jared’s lifeless body (an evil spirit pushed Jared out of a window on the top floor) on the hood of the security guard’s car. Together, the group jumps in Alex’s car, and they drive back to the hotel to gather their belongings.

They step in the elevator, and as the camera cuts away, you can see this weird emotionless look on a maid’s face. The elevator descends to the final stop, but when the doors open, the group doesn’t see a lobby in front of them. Instead, they’re in the underground tunnels of Collingwood. Here, it’s revealed the group never left Collingwood. The escape was just an illusion. Grave Encounters 2 suckered me in with this fake-out scene. There’s a sense of relief, when Trevor, Alex, and Jennifer escape, but they pull the rug out from underneath you at the last second, and the timing was perfect. Good stuff.

The snooty superiority complex is annoying at times, I can’t ignore the stupidity (Alex is responsible for 90% of the idiocy here), and the lame farting gag is cringeworthy, but Grave Encounters 2 is a decent enough sequel. Bottom line, if you're a fan of the original, you should enjoy Grave Encounters 2, because they stick to the same blueprint for the most part. Plus, you won’t leap out of your seat, and crouch on the ground with your eyes covered, but Grave Encounters 2 delivers a solid jump scare (if you need a sneak peek, just look at the box cover at the top), and yes, that’s a noticeable improvement over the first film.

Rating: 5/10

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