Tag Archives: halloween home video

Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 4)

The hour draws near to upend your buckets and devour the annual trick or treat plunder. Together, we’ve spent another October stacking up horror movie programs for your Halloween enjoyment, and what fun it’s been to make up the menu!


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Four:
I Put A Spell On You!

In Week Three, we spent the evening in some of our favorite haunted and possessed places, having already tackled two weeks of mutants and bloodsuckers. Sometimes it takes more than the right monster and the ideal setting to chill an audience’s blood to perfection. A close cousin of the traditional haunting is the good old fashioned curse. Whether a broken convenant, a vengeful malediction, or just a bit of spiteful magic, the very best spells and curses are difficult, often impossible, to break. They can be used to trap, terrorize, or hideously transform all manner of unsuspecting victims. The target of a curse may have earned it by cowardice or criminal trespass, but might just as likely have stumbled into it by accident. The lesson in all cases is clear: be careful whom (or what) you cross. Damned careful.

The most popular entries in this category are a diverse and disturbing bunch. Universal’s 1941 classic The Wolf Man set the standard, pitting Lon Chaney, Jr. against the indwelling rage that plagues mankind… with the help of a cursed wolf bite. Lycanthropy, like vampirism, is a special sort of curse that eventually merited its own special genre. Author and filmmaker Clive Barker tackled a number of nasty curses, including those that resulted in the demonic romance Hellraiser and the sleepover game turned inner-city gauntlet Candyman. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead proved that chainsaw cannibals are far from the worst thing roaming cabin-filled woods. Infamous if less fondly remembered is the Stephen King yarn Thinner, if nothing else a memorable throwback to the classic notion of the gypsy curse.

And now for you unrepentant graverobbers, trespassers and meddlers where you don’t belong, here is a delicious triple jinx of our own devising.

First Course: Drag Me To Hell
(dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)

Sam Raimi curses the careless with demonic torments in Drag Me To Hell


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Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 3)

And so we gather once again at Fields Point Manor, to munch on the macabre. As before, we have a three-course horror marathon lined up to tide you over as the Halloween excitement really starts to build. Remember, a good scream is the best way to ease the grip of fear, keeping everything else inside you where it belongs.


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Three:
We Gotta Get Outta This Place!

Last week we dined on blood and lots of it, in the company of vampires and other thirsty ghouls. But not every nightmare scenario can be solved with stakes, garlic or sunshine. Sometimes evil oozes out the very walls, floors, furniture and doors we count on to keep bad things away.

James Wan scored a victory this summer with The Conjuring, a haunted house thriller with modern intensity and classic storytelling sensibilities. The fear that we are not safe in our own beds is a timeless and potent soft spot on the human soul, and filmmakers of all sorts have eagerly probed that spot for decades.

Thinking outside the box on this topic was a challenge. Haunting stories make up a goodly portion of almost any top-10, desert-island horror movie countdown, and great ones have been made to suit every taste. The Shining is bleak and lavish, Poltergeist playfully hideous, The Haunting and The Innocents each a parade of good old-fashioned dread, and even those in the mood for the madcap have choices ranging from William Castle’s The House On Haunted Hill to the surreal Japanese freakout known as Hausu (House). If you have not had the pleasure, stop what you have going on and make room for these movies in your life, too. Meanwhile, we adjourn to the brandy and popcorn lounge for tonight’s features.

First Course: El Orfanato
(The Orphanage)
(dir. J. A. Bayona, 2007)

J. A. Bayon's The Orphanage tests a mother's love and sanity to their limits

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Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Fields Point nightmare parlor and media room. Today we continue the Halloween Home Video series, recommending a weekly menu of ghastly delights for your screening and sharing pleasure.

These picks are for the adventurous gourmet, assuming you have enjoyed, or at least sampled the staples of the genre before. We avoid leftovers here as much as we can.


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Two:
Brother, Can You Spare A Pint?

Following last week’s foray into the world of freaks and mutants, we turn our attention to a more classic figure in the horror pantheon, the Vampire. The Bloodsucker. The Wurdulak. The Caped And More Importantly Fanged One. Nosferatu, y’all. If you thought the plasma was flowing deep before, put on your bib for a real bloodfest.

So you’ve had the essentials, have you? Murnau’s Nosferatu? Tod Browning’s Dracula? A goodly taste of the Hammer vampires from swinging London? Near Dark? Let The Right One In, Swedish and American versions? Then try something rare from Column B Negative.

First Corpse: Thirst
(dir. Park Chan-wook, 2009)

Park Chan-wook's Thirst turns a priest into a vampire


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Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 1)

And so October comes faithfully round again. A good horror movie works any time of year, but something about the Halloween season gives it extra savor. For starters, scary movies are excellent for parties, dates, and all manner of shared social experiences. The fun of being scared by movies is an all-or-nothing concept, but those of us who love it are absolutely hooked on it. This is our season.


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

In 2012, the first Halloween Home Video series took a quick and dirty survey of the year in horror, highlighting ten new and underseen movies which, while not consistently excellent, were notable in some measure for their conception or execution. The lack of fanfare around those flicks seemed to have arisen not from low quality, but from the pitfalls of small release, direct-to-video and foreign distribution in a low-bar market flooded with amateur competition. Making a horror movie may be the one of the easiest things in the world, but making one that’s any good is no inconsiderable feat.

As you plan your Halloween screening adventures, the majority of books, websites and lists you consult will point you toward classics like Carrie, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead, The Shining, Night Of The Living Dead, and of course John Carpenter’s original Halloween. Make no mistake; these are all excellent movies, but if you’re searching far afield for horror recommendations, it stands to reason that you know and love at least most of them already.

Halloween Home Video is still about scaring up ideas beyond the usual list of suspects. Many of the features will be decidedly more mainstream this year, but the goal is still to keep mainly off the all-time essentials list. The 2013 edition proposes a weekly three-course “menu” of horror films for your viewing enjoyment. Each triple bill has been chosen for maximum variety within a given theme, pairing time-tested favorites with respectable contemporary efforts, along with something a little zany thrown in for dessert.

Week One:
Tenth Avenue Freak-Out

Let us begin the feast with something refined yet playful, profound but unpretentious to tickle the palate. Nothing spells class better than running in terror from dangerous killer freaks. Are they mistakes of nature, divine retribution for the sins of humankind, or merely misunderstood strangers? Confronting the monstrous always bears an element of tragedy, especially when the monster shares identifiable characteristics with its human victims. More often than not, it also serves as a mirror for the inhumanity we visit on one another (One of H. P. Lovecraft’s greatest tales, “The Outsider,” takes that idea to a shocking and poignant extreme).

Won’t you freak out along with us at home? And in future, look more kindly on the mutant oddities you call family and friends.

First Course: The Descent
(dir. Neil Marshall, 2005)

Unknown terror lives underground in Neil Marshall's The Descent


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Halloween Home Video #10: Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact

by Dan Fields
First published October 31, 2012 by the California Literary Review

And so we bid a fond farewell to Halloween Home Video (2012 edition), and here’s hoping you found just the right set of screams for your best Halloween ever. Gather the treats, pour the punch, and settle down for one last ghost story.


Nicholas McCarthy's The Pact promotional poster

© 2012 IFC Midnight

For A Rousing Finale

If you have watched your way through the Halloween Home Video list, or been engaged in any recent horror binge, it is likely that you are suffering semi-permanent “found footage” vertigo. If approached with talent and imagination, it can be a surprisingly versatile style choice, but it does wear on the eyes and brain if not enjoyed in moderation. One reason The Pact won the top spot on my list is its rather traditional sense of storytelling.

Even so, this movie deftly combines numerous classic horror themes in surprising ways. It is a mystery, a family drama, and a ghost story all in one. In a typical thriller or horror movie, the final act reveals either a rational explanation for seemingly supernatural events, or vice versa. Seldom does the audience get to enjoy both, at least in any coherent film. In the case of The Pact, ghostly activity is only part of the puzzle, pointing crucially to very real physical dangers lurking in unexpected places. It all fits together very nicely.

Annie (Caity Lotz) is a young woman toughened by a difficult childhood and the subsequent trials of drug addiction and hard living. She and her sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) grew up with a cruel and unstable mother, after whose recent death they now face the task of sorting out the family estate. Clearly neither one of them relishes the prospect of rekindling bygone memories. Annie is reluctant even to show up for the funeral, but at the urging of Nicole and their cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins), she consents.

By the time Annie shows up at her childhood home, Nicole has arrived at the house and gone missing under mysterious and frightening circumstances. Annie and Liz are worried, especially with Nicole’s young daughter in tow, and before they can settle on a plan of action, Liz goes missing from the house as well. Unlike your average, easily victimized horror movie heroine, Annie grabs her niece and gets the hell out right away. Unfortunately, she has trouble getting her story believed. A single rough-shod local cop (Casper Van Dien!) takes a tentative interest in her case, but clearly Annie will have to do most of the detective work herself.

Although by now she is terrified even to set foot in the house, she does her best to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Even as the ordeal taxes her stamina and self-possession, clues begin coming her way from seemingly otherworldly sources. It should come as no surprise that the house is haunted, but by what or whom? Furthermore, is the haunting the root of the problem, or merely a means by which to seek the underlying evil of Annie’s creepy little house?

The Pact is exceedingly dour and moody, but keeps things moving at an engaging pace. It prickles with long moments of dread and does not overindulge in cheap scares, although director Nicholas McCarthy could not resist a few here and there. The performances are good and the threads of the mystery elegantly twisted. It will be harder than average to guess the ending of The Pact, and even if you do it will be a delightful shock to watch the last loose ends unfold.

It has been a pleasure to offer you the fruits of the Halloween season, and I look forward to more spooky delights next year. It is my sincere wish that you and yours have a fun, safe, and relentlessly terrifying Halloween.

Halloween Home Video #9: Howie Askins’s Evidence

by Dan Fields
First published October 26, 2012 by the California Literary Review


DVD cover for Evidence directed by Howie Askins
© 2012 RynoRyder Productions

For A Weekend In The Country

If you feel you must milk yet another horror movie out of the bloated found footage craze, please do everyone a favor and follow three basic guidelines: make it short, make it as scary as possible, and bring it to an unexpected conclusion.

Although Paranormal Activity 4 stumbled on its own disappointing sameness, there have been several recent entries in the genre to play by these rules. V/H/S kept itself exceedingly brief and to the point, and the two-part Grave Encounters saga defied all reasonable expectations with a series of truly jarring, if not entirely cohesive, moments of horror.

Of all these contemporary cousins, Evidence fits the proper criteria to top the list. Despite its vague initial motivation, it wastes no time in casting its blithe, carefree protagonists into a supremely weird and terrifying ordeal.

Evidence initially poses as a documentary project of questionable value at best, but soon becomes a record of severe importance. Cameraman Ryan wishes to tape a camping trip led by his friend Brett and co-starring their girlfriends Abi and Ashley. Why Ryan wants to do this is lost in that swampy mire of why most found footage protagonists leave the camera running at all inappropriate times. The implied reasons are that he wants to test out his awesome new camera, and also happens to be just a bit emotionally unstable. This fascination with self-documenting would probably work better with a younger cast of kids. In fact, this might have been a bolder choice all around, although it may have also required the sacrifice of some of the film’s sexual overtones. In any case, on this flimsy but acceptable narrative pretext, the unwitting youths set off in a borrowed camper for the great outdoors.

Everyone seems to be having a good time until the party picks up signs that they are not alone in the wilderness. Sightings of distant, unidentifiable critters in the vicinty put everybody except Ryan on edge. Despite their repeated pleas to pack up and return to civilization, he insists that they stay and let him have his fun with the camera. All concerned come to regret this decision in time.

This is a setup we have all seen a hundred times. What makes Evidence so much fun is where things proceed from such a conventional jumping-off point. To deal out further plot details would be a disservice. The most glib and reductive way to describe Evidence is as a hybrid of Chronicle, Chernobyl Diaries and The Cabin In The Woods. However, an eager minority are bound to consider that a stellar pedigree. And to give fair credit, this movie was in production, and probably completed, before any of the others ever saw the light of a projector. It may lack polish, but it looks good and manages to spin a fascinating yarn with refreshing economy and nerve-shattering atmosphere. The payoff of Evidence is well worth your attention during a first act as familiar as the safety briefing on a commercial airline. When dread explodes into sheer madness, you may well find yourself caught with white knuckles and your hair on end. And what more, really, could you ask?

Halloween Home Video #8: Kimble Rendall’s Bait

by Dan Fields
First published October 24, 2012 by the California Literary Review


Promotional poster for Kimble Rendall's Bait 3D

© 2012 Screen Australia/Anchor Bay

For The Pool Party

It is high time for a creature feature on this list, and Australia was glad to oblige. Bait (or Bait 3D if you are fortunate enough to see it in the proper venue) operates on a premise that sounds absolutely ludicrous… until you think about it. Rather than send blissful bathers into shark-infested waters, director Kimble Rendall brought the sharks to dry land.

Josh (Xavier Samuel, also of The Loved Ones) is a dour young man, but not without good reason. Haunted by guilt over the shark attack that killed his best mate and cost him his fiancée – the victim’s sister – he has given up his career of hunky lifeguard to work in a small seaside food mart. Through a series of cursory yet melodramatic introductions, we meet various neighborhood types as they go about their daily shopping. A local policeman’s daughter is caught shoplifting. Her boyfriend, a store clerk, has been fired for collusion. A more aggressive robbery is soon in the offing as well. A fatuous young couple has inexplicably stopped off to have sex in the shop’s dank underground parking lot. And worst of all, Josh’s ex is back in town with a new beau from her recent travels to Singapore. How could such a day get worse?

“Tsunami” is the correct answer. Dogs and birds in the immediate vicinity have been acting erratically, and it turns out to have been an omen that nobody noticed. On a clear blue day, the ocean decides to drown the coast with a massive tidal wave. In little time at all, the occupants of the bodega find themselves flooded in. From here, escape would seem like only a minor challenge, except that the sea also washed in a pair of great white sharks. Forced onto the highest ground they can find, the tsunami survivors must find a way out or be eaten.

The stock characters in this film are cardboard-thin, with dialogue and delivery that must have been written expressly to elicit groans from the audience. When a movie tries hard to be “bad” on purpose, matters can easily be taken too far. B-movie sensibilities can be urged, but not manufactured wholesale, and the downside of Bait is that every scene in which the characters speak is really, really dumb. In addition, prepare to marvel at how well-sealed all Australian doors and vehicles are. Improbably watertight spaces play a key part in several scenes. But none of these things are why you showed up.

In its core scenario of hapless folks trapped in a supermarket of watery death, Bait has frequent echoes of Piranha, The Mist, and Open Water without ever quite matching the strength of any of these. Nonetheless, Rendall finds a multitude of inventive ways to pit prey against predator. This is the movie’s saving grace. The resourceful use of everyday items as anti-shark devices drives Bait to a genuinely taut and thrilling climax. Also, despite a few CGI clunkers that had to be rendered in broad daylight exteriors, the interior and underwater shark effects are quite good.

In order to reach its full (niche) potential, Bait could have used a good deal more sex appeal. However, there is a simple and well-paced plot going on here, and the film’s refusal to rely on bouncy assets may make it a more sincere pumpkin patch, if you will, than something like Pirahna DD. As a more low-key specimen of maneater encounter, this baby definitely has teeth.

Halloween Home Video #7: Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Barrens

by Dan Fields
First published October 22, 2012 by the California Literary Review


Movie poster for The Barrens starring Stephen Moyer© 2012 Anchor Bay

For A Much-Needed Getaway


Today’s feature is a family-style nightmare in the forest, courtesy of writer and director Darren Lynn Bousman. Bousman is best known to the world as the director of Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV. That sounds like a setup for a cheap shot, but Bousman is a new director with enough style and imagination to suggest that it may be too early to judge his body of work. To give due credit, Saw II is arguably the best installment in that whole blighted franchise.

In addition to The Barrens, Bousman is currently promoting a warped musical anthology entitled The Devil’s Carnival. As with Ti West’s The Innkeepers, some measure of fanfare over this successor to Repo! The Genetic Opera has probably reached you over the cult-horror airwaves, while The Barrens is still waiting to make a splash.

In its fundamental makeup, the story of the The Barrens hearkens to Stephen King’s better work, such as Cujo, Pet Sematary and especially The Shining. The central plot element of a nervous little kid named Danny and his unstable dad may not be a coincidence. That dad is Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer of True Blood), and what he wants most in the world is to have some quality time with his family on a camping trip, away from the rest of the world. Although the family is currently shaken up by the disappearance of their beloved dog, Richard gathers up young Danny, teen daughter Sadie, and wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner of The L Word and 24) and heads for the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where he often went as a boy with his father.

It will be curious for True Blood fans to see Moyer forsake his antebellum gentility for upbeat Englishness similar to the actor’s real-life cadence. Rest assured, though, that he will not pass the weekend without many familiar sneers of anguish and hostility. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

The sensitive Danny immediately begins to harbor anxiety over snippets of talk about the Jersey Devil, a legendary crypto-monster famously rumored to prowl the Barrens. To be fair, he is six years old. Meanwhile, Richard gets plenty worked up about the slovenly, overcrowded, tech-enabled state of today’s public campsite. Initially he tries to make nice with his obnoxious fellow “campers,” but soon insists that he and his party hike on into a more isolated section of the park. At first this seems like the normal reaction that all dads have on family trips. Soon, however, he begins to exhibit signs of a more substantial and dangerous breakdown. The vacation he planned to bring them together is falling apart with alarming speed.

Something bad is definitely walking around the woods nearby. Richard starts to suffer terrifying visions and increasing paranoia. Cynthia, no fool, wonders about the possibility of a correlation. You are likely to figure out the Big Secret sooner rather than later, so that you may have twenty minutes or more to enjoy the knowledge before the characters grasp it for themselves. Fortunately, guessing the nature of the problem in this case neither relieves the suspense nor resolves the conflict. Bousman has put everyone in too deep a predicament, and a messy confrontation is virtually assured.

The Barrens is a nice, surprisingly tight little genre film. The vivid, saturated, tree-worshiping exteriors are reminiscent of True Blood, though Moyer’s central role might be making that suggestion more strongly than any conscious style choice by Bousman or his cinematographer. A ruthlessly contemporary fable casting the ideal family getaway into hell, The Barrens will serve as emotional vindication for a cross section of adults who have identified a keenly drawn father figure in Clark Griswold, and perhaps feel guilty about not having appreciated family trips more when they were obnoxious kids.

Halloween Home Video #6: Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones

by Dan Fields
First published October 19, 2012 by the California Literary Review

Promotional poster for Sean Byrne's The Loved Ones

© 2009 Screen Australia/Ambience Entertainment

For A Night With That Special Someone


Director Sean Byrne has come closer to producing a true spiritual heir to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre than just about anyone in the last thirty-five years. His prom-night horror story The Loved Ones spins a yarn of sick delusions and extreme human suffering, but somehow manages to find humor clinging to the underside of such dire subject matter.

In an unnamed suburb of Melbourne, it is time for the end of school dance, and everyone has a hot date. All except Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy), a pink-clad misfit whose hopes and dreams seem to shatter when she finds out the handsome, Heath-Ledgerish Brent (Xavier Samuel) will be going with his main squeeze Holly.

We find out at the very beginning that Brent is a good kid, but grief and guilt over the tragic loss of his father have driven him into a permanent funk. He spends most of his time stoned, listening to black metal and mutilating his arms with a razor blade. However, he has retained sufficient charm to find a nice girlfriend and attract the attention of others, most notably Lola.

Meanwhile, Lola has a game plan in case she couldn’t find a date. She’s quite mad, you see. With the help of her doting Daddy (John Brumpton), she abducts Brent and stages her own “dance” at home. Brent awakens to a grotesque family dinner no doubt saluting the aforementioned Lone Star power tool murder incident film. Lola’s unrequited love, about which her own epiphany comes too late, fuels her all-night campaign of wounding, torturing, humiliating, and otherwise making Brent regret not only refusing her as a date, but also possibly ever having been born. Nonetheless, he is not about to go down quietly, and as the people in his life start to notice his absence on the night of the big dance, it becomes just possible that he may be found alive.

Horror films lacking any sense of humor are typically doomed before they begin. The smallest sliver of a bad joke can make all the difference in tone between a hair-raising thrill ride and an unbearable ordeal. At one point in Chain Saw‘s infamous dinner sequence, nonstop screaming terror breaks down into a savage collective giggling fit, as our poor heroine’s mind snaps for good. It is nearly impossible to suppress a hiccup of horrified laughter when watching this scene, and The Loved Ones breaks tension in similar ways whenever its brutality becomes almost too much to stand. This was the fatal mistake of Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek, which began promisingly but ran its course without the faintest wink or smile into a final act packed solid with degradation and torture. Had Byrne not perceived his opportunities to counter darkness with occasional doses of levity, The Loved Ones might have ended up much the same way. What too many people fail to realize is that the premise of almost any horror film, no matter how grave its tone, is inherently just a little bit ludicrous.

After his first taste of Lola’s sadistic madness, Brent tries to escape and ends up treed like a raccoon in the front yard. Something about the absurdity of his new plight, juxtaposed with the menace of the previous scene, is just plain hilarious. Robin McLeavy takes her performance to a new level at this key moment, giving full air to Lola’s battle between rage and squealing glee as she hurls rocks to knock him down.

To an outsider at least, there is a streak of fearless unpredictability in well-made Australian films. Something written into the cultural cinematic language will inevitably take straightforward scenarios in directions one cannot expect. This holds largely true across the board, whether the film in question is Mad Max, Strictly Ballroom, The Last Wave or Muriel’s Wedding, and in this respect The Loved Ones does not disappoint.

Though boasting a sharp punchline or two, this movie is no soft affair, and has some genuine “hide your eyes” moments in store. The acting is excellent, the technical aspects solid, and the soundtrack absolutely stellar. In addition to the appropriate retro-prom-horror score by Ollie Olsen, you will find a mix of moody tunes by the likes of Kasey Chambers, The Little River Band, The Dirtbombs, Little Red, and Pete Molinari. It is a perfect jukebox of angst and woe, so that you may remember forever that there’s always somebody who had a worse prom night than you did.

Halloween Home Video #5: John Poliquin’s Grave Encounters 2

by Dan Fields
First published October 17, 2012 by the California Literary Review


Grave Encounters 2 promotional poster

© 2012 Arclight Films

For Your Indie Wrap Party

This pick came as a big surprise, and while it may not measure up to the strongest entries in this list, it deserves more credit and attention that a dismissive first glance at its trailer might suggest.

Grave Encounters is the brainchild of the the Vicious Brothers, also known as Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, who reached into the “found footage” horror genre – a market teeming with derivative second-rate junk – and pulled out a genuinely scary and satirical work. The film frames its footage as the final, never-completed episode of a popular “ghost hunter” television show entitled Grave Encounters. Host Lance Prescott (Sean Rogerson) brings his crew to an abandoned Canadian mental hospital with a history of… you guessed it… ritual abuse and horrific secret experiments. We find out the following things in rapid sequence: The show is a total sham, the hospital is really haunted, and these showbiz folk are completely doomed.

With its lo-fi effects and melodramatic performances, this film achieves nothing new but manages to be truly scary and fun. The pace meanders, as will happen without fail within the genre, but the Vicious Brothers pull it off with much more grace and subtlety than you might expect. This is not a garden variety Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch ripoff. It has something of its own to contribute to the Halloween feast.

Deftly exploiting the polarized reactions to the first film, the Vicious Brothers wasted no time in penning a sequel. Be warned: if self-referential isn’t your thing, Grave Encounters 2 will irritate you. The film leads off with a number of amateur fan reviews both praising and lambasting the various aspects of Grave Encounters until we zero in on Alex (Richard Harmon), a lone fan who has begun to wonder if the events of the movie might have happened for real. This is a sequel in which the first film exists within the world of the second film. But don’t worry, nobody is going to get centipeded to anyone else. (Spoiler/Promise)

Alex is an aspiring director of horror films, and bears all the hallmarks of a film student in his most insufferable phase. He writes scenes that ape the most popular conventions of the genre, then curses them for their artlessness in the middle of shooting. He proclaims himself a spiritual heir to the likes of John Carpenter and Wes Craven. He even goes so far as to tell his ingenue/prospective girlfriend that he’s going to make her the next big scream queen. I mean, we were all like that once, right?

In his pursuit of the truth behind Grave Encounters, Alex sees an opportunity to achieve overnight importance in the horror genre. He scraps his slasher and assembles the same cast and crew for a guerrilla documentary based on the expedition in the first Grave Encounters. Considering what may have befallen a trained television crew of adults in the halls of the mysterious hospital, imagine what a bunch of teens without shooting permits or clearly defined goals have in store for them.

Viewing and enjoying the original Grave Encounters is not absolutely essential to appreciating the sequel, but it makes the experience a good deal richer. And frankly if you don’t care for 1, you probably won’t like 2. It is definitely not the stronger of the two films, but it achieves several blood-chilling moments that are more than sufficient payoff for the investment of time and energy. The third act of Grave Encounters 2 spirals into improbable silliness, even compared to the rest of the movie, but along the way you will find your hungry nerve endings rewarded. That nasty Apex Twin monster from the poster is not just a promotional tease. He will be along eventually, as well as an ECT scene that will put you right off radical brain treatments.

The best way to see the Grave Encounters films, if you can manage it, is as a three-hour double feature. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but they complement one another nicely. There may be more promise in these movies than substance, but even in the dangerously clogged drain of B-horror, clever ideas continue to lurk.