Review: The Grudge 2

Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn, given nothing to do) has been sent by her mother to Japan to check in on her hospitalized sister, Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar). There, Aubrey looks for clues to the deadly curse that took Karen's will to live, teaming up with a reporter (Edison Chen) to find the source of the mysterious ghost killing spree. Also in Japan, an American student (Ariel Kebble, a terrible actress in a horrible wig) has come into contact with this curse, leaving her a puddle of fear battling the spirits who want to eat her soul. Across the globe in Chicago, another grudge is taking place, ripping apart a family (including Jennifer Beals) that has recently found domestic peace.

Director Takashi Shimizu has been playing this "Grudge" game so long, I can't imagine him making a film without cheap scares and meowing ghost children. This is his sixth stab at selling the same ghost story, and I hate to disappoint people, but the results are getting worse.

Just last week we witnessed a franchise that was willing to consume itself to squeeze more dollars out of horror fans; "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" ruined everything by explaining what made Leatherface into the madman we know today. In a way, "Grudge 2" (IMDb listing) is fishing from the same hole. Obviously, this Japanese/American horror series ran out of fresh ideas a long time ago, so Shimizu heads back to the source of the grudge, and the results are a hopeless, desperate bore.

Shimizu at least had something intriguing with the Japanese "Ju-on," but homeland sequels and remakes put an end to that. The Americanized "Grudge" from 2004 did little to remind the viewer why the original concept was such a kick, but packed with aural jolts and branded with a PG-13 rating, the U.S. film was irresistible to the uninitiated. At its black heart, "Grudge 2" is a thinly disguised cash-in from Sony and producer Sam Raimi. The production knows that there's nowhere to go with this franchise, so they set up a purposefully twisty backstory that nobody will give a damn about, split the tale into three different sections to beef up the running time, and convinced (cha-ching!) Sarah Michelle Gellar to cameo in what amounts to a pointless return reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis' integrity-killing appearance in "Halloween: Resurrection."

Shimizu even repeats some iconic scare sequences directly from "Grudge," which, for a film this thin, is quite insulting. The rest of the picture alternates between half-realized exposition that grinds the film to a halt and aggravating boo scares to cover the evidence that Shimizu has bled the horror potential completely out of this puppy. If you have your unholy and unstoppable spirits crawling out of photo developing solution to chill the crowd, maybe this series should've quit while it was ahead.

Because Stephen Susco's script essentially tells three grudge tales, "Grudge 2" holds the opportunity to swiftly bounce from story to story. Instead of meticulously building the suspense, the sequel loses steam with every aching plot turn, and a sizable amount of coherency goes out the window as well. The production has managed to move the concept to America, which sets up another sequel to nab more of your paycheck. Hey, if the title is "Grudge 3: Grudgin' Hawaiian Style!," you can count me in.

Filmfodder Grade: D-