Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Written by: Stephen Susco
Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Edison Chen, Arielle Kebbel, Misako Uno, Jennifer Beals, and Sarah Michelle Gellar
“What Was Once Trapped, Will Now Be Unleashed”
So reads the tagline for The Grudge 2. Sadly, it is also the entire plot for The Grudge 2. It seems the whole movie was created simply to move those gray ghosts, who are in serious need of a haircut, from their original home in Japan to the United States. Chicago, to be exact. If they had taken care of this relocation in the first five minutes of the film, it might have provided a great jumping point to expand the story in new and twisted directions, but it takes writer Stephen Susco and director Takashi Shimizu 95 minutes to get the job done, and it appears things like logic and character development were dropped off the boat somewhere along the way.
Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) flies to Tokyo to help her sister Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), only to become exposed to the same mysterious curse. Meanwhile, three school girls journey into a haunted house, and half-way around the world, a newly married couple (Jennifer Beals and Christopher Cousins) find their recent troubles may be rooted in the supernatural.
Sounds like three different movies, you say? Well it feels like three different movies until the filmmakers clumsy attemt to tie it all together in the last five minutes.
Stephen Susco’s screenplay is a mess of failed subplots from the original Japanese Ju-On (which were wisely excised when they made the first American Grudge film), and new ideas that make little or no sense (The ghost was a “sin eater” as a child?). We are shown a lot of characters, but none of them are given much to do except cry and remind us not to go into that house, so when they go into the house anyway, we care little about what happens to them.
Director Takashi Shimizu knows how to create creepy visuals, and there are no shortage of them here, but his ghosts have now become so familiar that they’ve lost much of their ability to frighten. Case in point, in the original Ju-On, a main character pushes an ederly man in a wheelchair. He is making faces at the air, as if trying to get a baby to smile. Cut to a reflection in hospital doors, showing that the ghost of a little boy is walking right beside them. Here, the director attempts a similiar scene, but the result is laughter rather than screams. The Grudge 2 is not totally void of those jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but if you’ve seen any of the film’s advertising, you know exactly when they’re coming. In fact, one of the film’s biggest jolts isn’t even from the original Ju-on. Instead, it’s been lifted from another ghost story sequel: The Eye 2.
In the end, Shimizu’s ghosts finally find a new home here in the US of A, where I’m sure the producers of The Grudge 2 hope they can scare up even more profits in the future. Was this a way for the studio to keep costs down?–or was the director just ready to hand his creations over to someone else and be done with them? My guess is that it was a little of both. After wasting the last 95 minutes of my life, I may be done with them too.
2 out of 5 stars.