Grave Encounters tells the story of a ghost hunting television show (a parodic blending of several contemporary ghost hunting shows) cast that enters an abandoned Canadian mental institution to document the place’s ghostly happenings. To up the game, they have the caretaker lock them inside until morning. As you might guess, it turns out the place really is haunted and shit starts going down. But, of course, they’re locked in.
When I first started watching this movie, I was expecting a Paranormal Activity ripoff (this was released, after all, right in the middle of the found footage craze). As the movie progressed, though, I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a lot of derivative stuff here, but it still manages to be interesting. I appreciated the special effects, which were a combination of really decent CG (added in shadowy scenes where it should be) and old school prop manipulation. Much of the film is visible only from a flashlight point of view, which adds to the tension and builds the illusion that the set is incredibly expansive.
Grave Encounters 2 didn’t get as much love as the original, but I felt it was the stronger, more innovative film. This movie spends its first half building a legend out of the first film, documenting a persistent Internet rumor that the footage was real. To move things along, and to get us back inside that hospital, the plot is driven by a hopeful film school student making a documentary on Grave Encounters. Once he and his crew makes it to the hospital, they find themselves subjected to the same crazy business.
This could have made the film really weak if it was done sloppily. Essentially, the two films have the same plot. However, the second film adds a bunch of new scares and effects that I really didn’t see coming. Some of the performances are a bit weaker, but, all in all, it’s damned entertaining.
Watching these two back-to-back is the only way to get the full effect, as you really need to have the first one fresh in mind when watching the second. Do it.