How do you follow up a particularly meta horror film based on the brave new world of paranormal investigations via television programs? If you are the Vicious Brothers, and that first film was Grave Encounters, you follow it up by going even further down the meta rabbit hole and sprinkling your sequel with a healthy dose of self parody.
Grave Encounters 2, directed by John Poliquin this time, opens with a discussion of the film, carried out by a slew of YouTube users; video after uploaded video reactions to the film. It isn’t clear what, if any, portion of this feedback is real versus staged, which is appropriate as the Vicious Brothers seems intent on blurring that line for the entirety of the film. Regardless, this YouTube montage results in the introduction of the protagonist of Grave Encounters 2, Alex Wright(Richard Harmon), a collegiate level aspiring horror filmmaker who happens to spend his free time uploading YouTube reviews of horror films. Through a series of online comments and strange internet communications, Alex finds himself compelled to visit the site of the original Grave Encounters and document what portions of the film were real and what portions were fake.
All of this meta examination of this first film through the guise of a film student allows the directors to lead us back to the site of the original Grave Encounters, as well into the same situational set-up. We have a group of young people armed with cameras traipsing through an abandoned asylum at night…again. This is the point where The Vicious Brothers, who have spent the first act examining the criticisms of the first film, either reward your fandom or torture you and your complaints. Every aspect of the first film, from CGI to jump scares, are not only back but amped up to a level of near parody. It’s as if the directors approached this film with an antagonistic intent. “You didn’t like that? Then how do you like this?”
It’s hard to really know if the film is truly antagonistic or a bit of self-parody, or maybe a little of both. In either light, it is easy to admire the concept of Grave Encounters 2. It is not, however, easy to enjoy the film. Whatever stumbles and flaws that kept Grave Encounters from being great are present in the sequel to an exaggerated degree. CGI is at SyFY Channel level grandiosity, exposition rushes past subtly straight into ridiculous, and the scares are strangely familiar. It looks and feels like that the philosophy of this film was simply, “Let’s do it again, but bigger”. Unfortunately for Grave Encounters 2, bigger is not better.
This is because by relying so highly on multiple levels of meta introspection and arguable parody you lose all elements of what makes a horror movie of this kind good: scares. The first film managed to provide some well deserved jabs at the “ghost hunting” television programs while still providing some tension and legitimately scary sequences. In Ghost Encounters 2, though, all tension and fear are gone, leaving only a clever examination of the first film with moments of rehashed haunts and ridiculous exposition. You have to admire the idea of this sequel, but the execution was never as entertaining as it should have been. If you didn’t like the first film, there is very little chance you will enjoy the second. And even if you enjoyed the first film, enjoyment is no guarantee here.