The Vicious Brothers Talk Grave Encounters 2, in select theaters starting October 12th, and available on VOD now
Grave Encounters was a found-footage horror phenomenon that many people believed was just a movie. Film student Alex Wright is out to prove them wrong in Grave Encounters 2. Alex is as obsessed with the first film, as the 20 million people who viewed its viral trailer on YouTube. While he and his friends research the events and visit the real psychiatric hospital depicted in the original film, they find themselves face-to-face with unspeakable evil, banking on the hope that their knowledge of the original film will help them survive the sequel.
Grave Encounters 2 comes to select theaters this weekend, so to celebrate, we caught up with the creators of the franchise, and the writers behind this new installment, The Vicious Brothers, to talk about the making of this movie.
Here is our conversation.
Blair Witch 2. Grave Encounters 2 has a similar synopsis...
The Vicious Brothers: Its funny that you should mention that. The first ten minutes of that movie are fucking awesome. I think the original directors were on board, and then they got fired. If that is true, that's probably the first ten minutes that they shot, that is actually good. I thought that was a great intro, it was really ahead of its time. It starts with found footage documentary shit about the phenomena of the first movie. There are all of these tourists who go to that town, but then it stops being found footage, and it becomes a terrible, terrible B movie.
I've never actually seen the movie myself.
The Vicious Brothers: You should definitely watch the first ten minutes.
I wasn't trying to slam you guys by bringing up the comparison...
The Vicious Brothers: Oh, no! We definitely wouldn't go out and try to make a movie that copies Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2! (Laughs...)
How did you guys hit upon this idea? Because it is an interesting idea, if you do it right...
The Vicious Brothers: I think that is why we had done this. We didn't think any horror sequel had ever gone meta and gotten it right. We wanted to be the first ones to do it right. It seemed appropriate, given that the first film earned a lot of its success on the Internet. Because we had the trailer, and that went viral. We had twenty million plus views. It was a movie that people discovered online. It was part of the internet culture. It was important to take that stance with it, so we literally opened up this movie with Youtube reviews from the first movie, which is what we do.
I haven't seen this second one yet. They didn't give me a screener, so I am coming at this as fresh as the next viewer. The first one, though...VOD had really come into its own last year, and its going stronger than ever now, so this is a whole new platform. Do you feel having this new venue is freeing in any way? Do you guys feel like you are approaching the material at any different angle?
The Vicious Brothers: No. I don't think the platform changes the approach to the story in any way, unless you are trying to do some bizarre internet film cross platform thing, which could be cool. With this film, we always had creative freedom. We signed a deal with Tribeca, and they let us write whatever the Hell we wanted. They didn't have a lot to say as far as what we did. We took that as their blessing to go create something that pushed the limits of what people are used to seeing in horror. We take this where no found footage film has gone yet, and we try to do the meta thing right. I always thought it was so cool to make a film about a film that exists in the real world. We had the perfect opportunity with this, since the first one takes place in 2003. We thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if we had a group of film school students, and one of them is a V-logger, like you see on Youtube, and he helped contribute to the success of the first film, why don't we make him one of those guys? And make him start to unravel this mystery that lead him on a quest to find out if the first film is just a movie, or if there is some sort of dark cover-up that is just tomfoolery, making everyone think its just a movie." There were a lot of different, interesting ideas we always wanted to touch down on. We always thought the first film didn't give any motivation for the building. And the building was really such a poignant character in the first film that we wanted to explore and expand that further.
Is there some tomfoolery going on with the first film? Is there some truth to the horrors we see in that movie?
The Vicious Brothers: Indeed there is.
Do I need to get a real journalist in here to explain some of the things that are going on in the movie? Or can you offer up any hints as to the actual cover-up?
The Vicious Brothers: You could say that a lot of the movie is based on experiences that we have had....No! That is all bullshit. It is all just fiction. It's a movie, you know?
I'm not buying it!
The Vicious Brothers: We both definitely believe in the paranormal, and we have had experiences that led me to believe that ghosts do exist. I think that is one of the things that we try to capture. We want the realism. There are teenagers getting killed, and we've all seen that a million times. But I think it's not necessarily what you are about, but how you are about it. And if people believe in what you are trying to say, then the audience will go along with that ride, and enjoy it.
Is it easier to cheat the found footage aspect at this point, since audiences have seen it, and know what it is. They aren't always looking for who might be holding the camera...
The Vicious Brothers: I think it's a combination. I think its easier in the sense that, when people were first making these movies, they thought the characters had to scream, "Keep shooting this! keep rolling!" They had to explain the gimmick over and over again to the audience. At this time, I think there have been enough of them that people are willing to just suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride. When The Blair Witch Project came out, people really did look at that and think, "Is this real?" If you watch the movie, I am not surprised, because its very realistic and low tech. People hadn't seen anything like that at all. People were like, "Is this real." Then you had a second wave of found footage movies come out, like your [Rec]s, and your Quarantines, and whatnot. People were like, "Is this real? No, but they are trying to make it seem like its real." People had a really negative reaction to some of these found footage films, because people were saying, "No, it is not real! You guys know its not real, right? Its so dumb how they try t make it seem like its real." Even at this point, I think audiences are past that. They know it's not real. They get that it's just a movie. They get that it's a fun way to watch a movie. Watching any movie is about suspending disbelieve and going with what is happening. Found Footage lets you do that a bit more, because it's just trying to present itself as real.
Now that the audience is more in on the joke of found footage, do you feel more comfortable using cameras that don't look like they are twenty years old? Some of this independent stuff looks way better than the Studios attempts to do the genre. Like Warner Bros. They put out this party movie...
There is also that superhero movie about the three kids with telekinesis, and the guy filming the movie looks to be using an old tube camera from the 80s. I have my new Blu-ray player, I have my plasma screen, and these movies look like absolute shit...
The Vicious Brothers: I think it plays a part in selling the audience the realism. If you go and shoot on a 4K Red system...The way you can whip a small camera around...I'll use Project X as a reference...I heard they shot parts of that movie on a cell phone...The first act of our movie is shot on a Bloggy camera that you can buy for a hundred bucks at Future Shop. That was an intentional decision on our part. We had to push our director, John Poliquin. And bless his soul for going along with it, and not shooting the whole movie on Red, or something of that equivalent, and having the movie look like a traditional cinematic story. You tell a story in the palate that you create for the film, and the look that you give it. If you are going to go that Youtube, low quality grade, that doesn't mean it's not professional. That is just how you are telling your story. I think if it looked too professional, and too slick, and you're rack focusing with these beautiful 35mm lens, no one is going to believe that is a video camera shooting it. It completely changes the way the story is being told. I think if independent movies are being shot on Canon 5Vs, they are just garbage, because these filmmakers don't understand that it is just a tool, and you need to use whatever tool best services your story.
I get the artist's side of it. I do. But when I get one of these movies home, and I sit down to watch it on my new expensive technology, and it looks like shit, I have to laugh...Its like, "What the fuck?" I should just be watching this on a dubbed down VHS tape. Fuck spending money on a 3D Blu-ray player, let me just rub this against an old inner tube and watch the sparks...
The Vicious Brothers: I think that is true. But if you look at Paranormal Activity, they blew it up, and they didn't fix it. They thought the look suited the story they were telling. They are telling a small haunted house story. They kept a similar aesthetic through the entire thing. I think that is important. We had success with the first film. If we came back with a second film that looked like Quarantine or Cloverfield, the audience would be more removed from it. We wanted to keep our two films very similar. It does look a little bit better, the image quality, if you want to talk about the technical stuff. It's just a tool at the end of the day. Who cares if its shot on a fucking web camera. Or if it's shot on 35mm film. If the story is good, and the characters are good, all that shit is just techno stuff, and I don't give a crap about it. It's all about the story and the characters, who cares if you are watching it on standard def or HD? That is all stuff for the consumer to get hyped over.
How did you find your cast for this one as opposed to the first film?
The Vicious Brothers: It was really quite similar. We used the same casting person as we did on the first movie. We had a nice solid cast on the first movie. The process is always the same. You get sent tapes, initially. You get literally hundreds of tapes. You whittle that down to about ten people. Then you see them in person. You talk with them, work with them for a little bit. And then you make your choice from there. Everyone we saw, for the most part, especially for the lead roles, they are all professional actors that work up here in Vancouver, and are on tv shows, and do movies like that all the time. Everyone was a really good actor. It was just a matter of finding the perfect person for the role. The hardest one would have been the lead character of Alex, who Richard Harmon plays. Much like in the first movie, the biggest challenge was to find our host character. On this movie, the lead is the biggest choice. But we got really lucky with this kid, Richard Harmon, who is an up and coming guy. He was on a show called The Killing. His career is on the up and up. He was great to work with, and he gives the film credibility, I think.
Did you guys troll Youtube and other media sites to keep up with the fans, and what they think about this new movie?
The Vicious Brothers: Yeah. I use the Facebook all the time to talk to the fans. They don't even know they are talking to us half the time. We will tell people how to watch the movie if someone is dying to see it and doesn't know where to find it, and no one else is chiming in. I will come in and save the day. (Laughs). We love to interact. We are on Twitter. It's a lot of fun talking to fans. That is one aspect of technology that I think is cool. You get even closer to the behind the scenes.
Do you pay attention to their criticisms? Do they ever push your thoughts and ideas in a new direction?
The Vicious Brothers: On this film, we definitely paid attention. Because the film is structured in such a way, we would have been silly not to. Our lead character is a film school student. In the first scene, he reviews the first film, and he hates it. (Laughs) We definitely took a lot of the negative and positive things that people were saying with the first film, and we tried to address that in this meta sequel. I think it gave us the type of story we are telling. We had to do that, otherwise, it would have just been silly. We always enjoy watching reviews on Youtiube, and whatnot, so it's exciting that we could fit some of those into the film.
Why didn't you guys direct this time around?
The Vicious Brothers: Mainly because, right as we were going into production, right when photography was starting, we were making this proof of concept trailer that we were going to use before we got the financing going for this movie that we want to make next, and it was a real rapid thing. It was a three-day shoot, it had 3D in it, and it was a complicated thing. We wanted to finish this project up, and we didn't want to have to juggle between the two. We didn't want to have to compromise, and then we wouldn't have been able to make Grave Encounters 2 as good as it could have been, because we couldn't have given it our full attention. We thought, "Maybe we can go with another director?" We'd already known John Poliquin, J.P. as we call him...He is a friend that we have known for a long time. He is a pretty prolific music video director here in Canada. He has done fifty music videos, all of which are pretty crazy. They all have crazy effects in them. We talked to a couple other people, but then we met J.P. and had a few beers. It was obvious after talking with him for just a half an hour that he really got it. He was a fan of the first one. He was excited by the opportunity to do it. We felt really comfortable and confident going into this that he would be able to take the reigns. He did a great job.
Why was there such a quick turn around on the films? I don't even think there was a full year between the releases...
The Vicious Brothers: It was the craziest schedule. From start to finish. From putting the first word on the first script to putting the master tapes in a package and sending them via Fed-Ex, off to New York. That was the last day, because they had to have it on that day...That was all under five months. Which is a pretty quick and crazy schedule. That came from trying to get a budget behind it. That took longer than we thought. There was a back and forth that ate up some time. If that had of gone quicker, we would have had more time. But, you know...I think if we had to do it again, we would want more time, because it was extremely crazy. And extremely rushed.
Are you going to do it again? Is this a franchise that will go on for a while?
The Vicious Brothers: If the market calls for it. We have a cool idea that we have been joking back and forth with. We want to make it a trilogy and put it to rest. But, yeah...We are open to a third film. We hope it doesn't come together quite as quickly as the second film. That may have almost put us all in the hospital. We were working 48-hour days sometimes. It might have killed my spirit for filmmaking off for a couple of weeks after we sent that master tape off. (Laughs)
Because the film deals with the making of the first movie, do you guys have cameos?
The Vicious Brothers: Yes. We have a cameo. We steal the show in the third act, if you can believe it or not. People will go out of their mind when they see this!
Are you being serious?
The Vicious Brothers: No! We are in the film, but it fucking sucks! We are in there for about ten second. We tried our hardest!