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Grudge 2′ instills little fear in audiences

Erin McGinn | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A good horror film is most simply judged by whether or not it achieves its ultimate goal of scaring the audience. The audience response should then consist of such words as “scary,” “frightening” or “spooky.” “Laughable,” on the other hand, should not be one of those words.

Laughable is one of the few words to describe the travesty that is “The Grudge 2.”

The first mistake of the film is writer-director Takashi Shimizu’s decision to incorporate three separate storylines into the movie. The first storyline is the conclusion to “The Grudge” (2004). After learning that her sister Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has been hospitalized, Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) goes to Tokyo at the behest of their mother to bring her home. The plot first raises questions at this particular point – it seems unlikely that Karen’s absence would go unnoticed for the two years that have lapsed between “The Grudge 2” and its predecessor.

Why was Karen’s family only finding out about her situation now? The movie disregards this completely (as it disregards most logic in the film as a whole). Aubrey doesn’t believe in the supernatural forces that are after her sister, until Karen dies shortly into the film. She spends the rest of the movie investigating in Tokyo with her journalist friend Eason (Edison Chen).

The second Tokyo-based storyline follows the unpopular Allison (Arielle Kebbel, “John Tucker Must Die”) who is studying at an international high school. On a dare, she accompanies two other girls to the house where the grudge originated. Consequently, her two companions, Vanessa (Teresa Palmer, “Wolf Creek”) and Miyuki (Misako Uno), are systematically haunted and attacked by the little grudge children.

The third, and the most unnecessary and confusing, storyline is set far from Japan in Chicago. Trish (Jennifer Beals, “The L Word”) moves in with her boyfriend and his two children. The parents begin acting strangely, and the son thinks that it’s due to the weird neighboring girl that he sees at night in the hallway.

The major and glaring flaw of this movie is that there is no plot, just these three storylines that can only be called subplots. “The Grudge 2” lacks a single, unifying story that these three would normally serve to flesh out. This leaves the movie with a very disjointed and empty feel. The original movie, despite lacking a strong plot, was still unified by the single point of Karen discovering what was going on inside the house.

This film has no sense of discovery – or even a point. It doesn’t add to the original mythos of “The Grudge.” Aside from one minor point, nothing new is learned to warrant the creation of a whole new movie.

Instead the film relies on cheap, non-frightening and highly predictable “scares.” Shimizu, who also created the original Japanese “Ju-on” films, relies heavily on his now-clichéd freaky-looking children. Unfortunately for Shimizu, his key elements of the long-haired girl, blue screeching boy and dirty murky water have been overexposed to American filmgoers due to the rise in “J-horror” films, a genre of Asian horror movies like “The Ring” that have found new audiences through remakes made in the United States.

Their parody counterparts in the last two “Scary Movie” installments also contribute to the audience’s inability to take the film’s conventions seriously. They’ve simply lost their ability in instill fright in the audience.

“The Grudge 2” could still have been a redeemable movie even with Shimizu’s tricks no longer eliciting screams from moviegoers. But that would have required having a plot at the core of the film.

With no coherent storyline, and nothing in the film that comes remotely close to scary, there is quite simply no reason to endure the torture that constitutes “The Grudge 2.”