The Grudge 2 (2006)

The Grudge 2 is Takashi Shimizu’s sixth film about ghostly mother-son duo Kayako and Toshio and their never-ending grudge. Like all of its predecessors, it’s jumbled and messy, following several different characters whose stories only occasionally intersect, with a timeline that leaps without warning into the past and future seemingly at random. In a way, though, that’s the charm of the Ju-on/Grudge movies. The victims aren’t the point: the ghosts take centre stage, and The Grudge 2, more than any of the other movies, is really Kayako’s story.

To tie up loose ends left over from the previous film, Sarah Michelle Gellar makes a brief reappearance as Karen, but the film swiftly moves onto its new cast – Karen’s sister, Aubrey (Tamlyn); investigative reporter Eason (Chen); schoolgirl Allison (Kebbel); and a newly put-together stepfamily, whose connection to the whole shebang doesn’t become clear until the very final scene. As is only to be expected, each character in turn falls victim to Kayako’s rage; and only Aubrey (barely established as the central character) manages to find out anything new about what’s happening. Unfortunately, her discovery is so daft you’ll wish she hadn’t bothered.

Newcomers to the franchise might find the story a little hard to follow: there’s a recap of the original, curse-generating murder, but the special effects team have gone so overboard that these scenes resemble a grainy pirated videotape which has been copied several times too many. Appropriate, really, since the story has been rehashed so many times. In a nutshell, Kayako was a slightly creepy woman whose husband went nuts and murdered her, their son and his cat before hanging himself; legend has it that a person who dies in the grip of a powerful rage will become a ghost in order to wreck their revenge. With each murder Kayako and Toshio exact, the ‘grudge’ curse becomes more potent as the victims contribute grudges of their own – and so it continues. The Grudge 2 isn’t a straight remake of Ju-on 2 – both the American remakes have borrowed scenes from all of their predecessors, as well as adding original scenes. The Grudge 2, in fact, replicates several shots precisely from The Grudge (though, to its credit, usually with entirely different pay-offs).

Unfortunately, the image of the broken-boned, longhaired female Japanese ghost is starting to lose currency in the fear stakes. Kayako looks almost too similar to Sadako/Samara of Ring/The Ring, and it’s never the moments where she pops out of her contrived hiding places that are really scary. It’s all in the anticipation: the audience knows the rules by now, they know Kayako is coming, but they don’t know how or when, and that’s the fun part. There are some genuinely inspired scare scenes in The Grudge 2; unfortunately there are some stale, unoriginal moments, too. Several peripheral characters add nothing whatsoever to the film – and so the problem with The Grudge 2 is its failure to crop out all of the pointless bits. The first half hour is brilliantly paced and executed; what follows is mostly a meandering jumble which attempts to give Kayako a mysterious and creepy past that owes far too much to Ring 0; the film picks up again towards the end, but fails to cut after its climax, bumbling along for a further pointless 10 minutes.

On the bright side, the expansion of the curse to encompass the United States as well as Japan gives the ghosts more room to play, which is great; and Takashi Shimizu is a skilled filmmaker who sets up some brilliant, beautiful shots. It’s just that this movie would be a lot better if someone were to judiciously take some pruning shears to it.

IMDB link

Originally reviewed for 6 Degrees Film.

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