Review: “The Grudge 2”

The sequel to the brilliant US remake of “The Ring” was a shambles, and now the sequel to the pretty decent US remake of “The Grudge” has proven even more of a disaster. Quickly dispatching first film lead Sarah Michelle Gellar early on in almost exactly the same way Jamie Lee Curtis left the “Halloween” franchise (ie. quickly in order to serve out her contract), the film has only mild faith in its decent but ultimately bland new lead (Amber Tamblyn) so must split the load across three separate storylines.

The storylines do eventually make sense, but by that time writer Stephen Susco has completely abandoned the rules he set out in the first film. These Grudge kiddies start popping up all over the place – Tokyo, Chicago, in hospitals, rural houses, etc. They become so overly used and ridiculous that they’re simply no longer frightening – more like a pair of lost albinos with a throat disorder. More annoyingly there really is no need for the separate storylines until the final reveal which is so obviously a set up to move the action States-side and save on expenses that it’s laughable.

Like all films of this type, the characters remain completely stupid idiots who command little of our sympathy. Gellar in the first one at least had no idea about the house’s curse, here Tamblyn ain’t so innocent but she and that cute Asian reporter guy must find a way to stop it – how? Let’s go visit their elderly priestess mother who confirms what we already know – there is no way to stop or kill these kids, so basically we as an audience just get to watch endless torturous sequels.

At least that subplot is vaguely interesting. The other two unfortunately aren’t so compelling – a bunch of schoolgirls visit the house and proceed to become haunted by them, whilst in Chicago a family’s new residence has a new neighbour who seems to cause everyone in the building to become depressed and somewhat homicidal freaks. The first subplot feels like a lift out of every dull 80’s horror sequel, and uses its Japanese school girl dresses fetish to great extent. The second though is just a tired mess, a mystery that’s solvable from the get go and ultimately has little point short of the aforementioned sequel setup.

These films can be palatable if there’s some scares but surprisingly there’s none. Takashi Shimizu, a man who seemed to understand that less is more, abandons the philosophy for the sequel which has the ghouls appearing in classrooms, telephone boxes, and often up high looking down. Not helping is the restrictive PG-13 rating which never shows us what really happens to these people – only the aftermath which includes blank-string corpses and bad visual effects in one scene set in a psychiatrist’s office.

The sequel is simply a failure on many levels. It lacks suspense, scares, visual flair, decent characters and even a cohesive narrative. Most audiences will be confused more than scared by the time the end rolls around, and even those who have been able to follow will have long ago given up caring. Thanks to the first film’s success it has more polish than many of the other movies of this type thanks to a bigger budget, but really Sony should’ve spent much wiser than this. An utter waste.