J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grave Encounters 2: It’s for Real, Dude


As one of those obnoxious youtube posters, Alex Wright probably has it coming.  When he uploads a review ripping the Vicious Brothers’ found footage horror movie Grave Encounters for looking fake, the film student gets something he never anticipated—a starring role in the sequel.  Viewers will indeed head back to the haunted nut house, but with a postmodern twist in John Poliquin’s Grave Encounters 2 (trailer here), written, produced ,and edited by the Brothers Vicious, which screens appropriately at midnight this Friday and Saturday in New York.

Set in the abandoned Collingwood asylum, the filmmaking duo known as the Vicious Brothers (sort of like Radio Silence) scared a lot of folks with Grave Encounters 1, in which Lance Preston and his reality television crew spends an ill-fated night in the evil building, with their cameras running to record to record their supernatural demises.  However, as Wright soon learns from an online commenter known as Death Awaits 666, Sean Rogerson, the actor who played Preston, has never been heard from since.

As Death Awaits emails and faxes tantalizes clues to Wright, the aspiring filmmaker becomes increasingly fixated on the first Grave Encounters and the institution it called “Collingwood,” but whose real name has been censored to protect viewers from their curiosity.  Eventually getting off-the-record confirmation GE is the real deal, Wright scrounges together a crew and heads to the nameless asylum to shoot his own film, Grave Encountesr2.

Essentially, GE2 is to found footage style films what Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was to the Nightmare on Elm Street series.  It opens up the subgenre through its post-modern devices, like a filleted fish.  However, Poliquin (a.k.a. JP) does not invest the same amount of time establishing every ominous inch of Collingwood, presumably assuming we are already familiar with the shunned building.  Likewise, despite the cleverness of the first act, including an appearance by “the Vicious Brothers” as a pair of numbskull figurehead interns at the original film’s production company, the sequel lacks the same slow building tension.

Even so, the institution formerly known as Collingwood remains creepy as all get out.  The GE franchise must have some of the best location scouting and set design you will see in contemporary horror films.  Sean Rogerson also makes a heck of a return in the follow-up, playing himself playing Lance Preston.  While not as an engaging presence, Richard Harmon has some effective moments showing the dark sides of obsession and the pettiness of film schools (which the Viciouses reportedly despise).

By genre standards, GE 2 is uncommonly original.  It just does not get under the skin the way its predecessor did.  Definitely still good for a few scares, Grave Encounters 2 screens midnights this Friday (10/12) and Saturday (10/13) in New York at the Village East Cinema.

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