By admin | October 14, 2006

In the rich tradition of remakes of sequels of remakes, we have “The Grudge 2,” which dares to answer the age-old question: how many blue-skinned ghouls does it take to bore an audience?

“The Grudge 2″ takes place in three separate timelines. The main plot involves events occurring immediately after the events of the first “Grudge.” Here, Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) rushes to Japan to be at her sister Karen’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) side. It seems Karen has suffered some sort of mysterious accident, and Aubrey is urged by their mother (who can’t attend in person due to terminal illness) to see what the hell’s going on.

Of course, we know Karen set fire to a cursed house to free herself of its evil spirits, killing her boyfriend in the process. But Aubrey has no knowledge of this, and – after consulting with Eason (Edison Chen), a dogged journalist covering the house’s legacy – foolishly decides to check things out for herself.

Meanwhile, a group of oblivious American teenage girls (students at Tokyo’s International High School) have been drawn by tales of the house’s sinister past. The three unwisely enter the dwelling, setting off the now familiar “grudge,” ensuring a good 80 minutes or so of unpleasantness.

Of course, there’s also the family from Chicago, who are dealing with their own…housing issues and a familiar cyanotic young boy.

Karen at least had an excuse for her foolishness. She wasn’t aware of the curse hanging over the house when she made her fateful visit to check on her missing co-worker. Her sister can’t make the same claim (Eason actively tries to prevent her tagging along), and so commands little of our sympathy.

A better movie would’ve had Tamblyn playing her “Joan of Arcadia” character and summoning the mighty power of the Christian god to combat these supposedly lesser Japanese spirits. This would’ve elevated this scarcely entertaining B-movie into a thoughtful and hyperviolent meditation on spirituality and cultural superiority, culminating in one or more nuclear detonations, which always make for good cinematography.

But no, we’re left with a skeletal narrative fleshed out by jump scares and annoyingly indestructible bad guys. Granted, the horror stalwarts of the ’80s (Freddie, Jason, Clubber Lang) were entertaining because their very immortality made them amusing. You can’t take a killer who survives decapitation or immolation seriously, and the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies played to their inherent campiness. All movies like “The Grudge 2” leave us with is a sense of bored futility. If the vengeful ghosts are able to ignore the laws of physics, time, and thermodynamics, and the curse itself is unbreakable no matter what the protagonists do, what possible interest should an audience have in paying money to sit through it?

And while I’m thinking about it, why the fuck is that house still standing? We know from the first “Grudge” that the cops were aware of the curse upon it, so why not claim the thing was a crack den and bulldoze the thing? It’s already been gutted by fire, so what’s the hold-up? Because then Takashi Shimizu wouldn’t have a sequel (and a third installment, due in 2007) and we wouldn’t be subjected to yet another in the increasingly tired flood of J-horror remakes.

The same problems that plagued the original are on display here. The creepy mother and son ghost duo pop up unexpectedly and grab a lot of legs, but didn’t we see enough of that in the first movie? There are also a three times as many main characters, whose individual tales are presented out of sequence with each other to the point where you’re practically begging for that freaky boneless chick to show up and start snapping necks. At least with the teenage girls, Shimizu appears to be catering to that lucrative Catholic schoolgirl fetishist market.

That’s a huge market.

“The Grudge 2” marks a disheartening turn in horror, as it’s an unforgivably boring film. Worse, if the laughter I heard during the screening was any indication, it may end up being a better comedy than “Employee of the Month.”

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