THE GRUDGE 2
** (out of 5)
October 13, 2006
Sarah Michelle Gellar as KAREN DAVIS
Amber Tamblyn as AUBREY DAVIS
Edison Chen as EASON
Arielle Kebbel as ALLISON
Jennifer Beals as TRISH
Teresa Palmer as VANESSA
Misako Uno as MIYUKI
Sarah Roemer as LACEY
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Woe is me. It looks like we’re coming to the end of the Japanese horror imports – or at least sane and rational people will think this after seeing “The Grudge 2.”
Only a few short years ago, the American horror genre was turned on its ear by an influx of these Japanese films. It gave us a completely different perspective on horror. These films started to be remade for the American audience in 2002, and the first one to make a splash (no pun intended) was “The Ring.”
Since the success of “The Ring,” Japanese cinema has been mined for this new breed of horror. It was done very successfully in “The Grudge” two years ago. However, as of late, the American remakes of Japanese thrillers have been less than spectacular.
I really liked “The Grudge,” so naturally I was excited for the sequel. However, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Everything that made “The Grudge” original, unique and terrifying falls flat in “The Grudge 2.”
The writing is a complete mess. Three pseudo-consecutive storylines are thrown together, told simultaneously. One follows an American girl, played very homely by the otherwise beautiful Arielle Kebbel, who visits the house from the first film only to find the ghosts clinging to her life. Another follows a broken family that has moved into a new Chicago apartment who suddenly encounter the evil ghosts from Japan.
The third story, which I suppose is the main one, follows Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn), the sister of Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Aubrey is sent to Japan by her mother to bring Karen back home after she has been hospitalized for burning down the haunted house, and inadvertently killing her boyfriend.
How all of these stories fit together is anyone’s guess – even when they attempt to wrap up in the end. Actual characterization and plot is replaced with cheap startle gags and the overuse of the ghosts. Like last year’s “Boogeyman” (another product from Sam Raimi’s floundering Ghost House studio), these cheap tricks are used so much that they no longer scare anyone.
Not only are all the elements of the first “Grudge” recycled endlessly throughout “The Grudge 2,” but it steals from other movies as well. We’ve got the creepy, spastic ghost slowly approaching, which we’ve seen in “The Ring.” We’ve got the kid drowning motif from “Dark Water” and “The Ring 2.” And let’s not forget the overly pale, almost naked ghosts we’ve seen in everything from “The Ring” to “Pulse.”
Having been a fan of the Asian cinema imports, I fear that “The Grudge 2” will signal the death knell to the mixing of the cultural styles. Even with a Japanese director at the helm, these American films just don’t get it any more. What seems to work in the Japanese cinema just crumbles when seasoned with an American taste. After all, how many more films like “Pulse,” “The Ring 2” and “Dark Water” can we take?
Maybe the only hope for the genre is for grand shock-master Takashi Miike, who throws everything from aborted fetuses to full-grown human birth into his movies, to take a shot at this market. At the very least, we’ll get something different from little kids drowning and pale ghosts shedding their hair all over the set.