01/12/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
So what do we have here, folks, asks Frank? That's right...another belaboured and brain-dead boofest that's being served up to whet our hair-raising appetites. For those of you that wanted a frantic follow up to the 2004 hit-making scarefest The Grudge then count your giddy goose bumps because director Takashi Shimizu is back in the saddle again.
Predictably, the filmmaker spins some more sinister nonsense in the goofy-minded yet ghostly (or shall we say ghastly?) The Grudge 2.
Granted that Shimizu should know his jittery junk by now seeing as though this is his seventh shot at delivering the familiar spooky spectacle (he's done four versions in Japan and two here in this country). Admittedly, Shimizu's Japanese frightening editions were more ambitious in its glaring chill factor. However, the same cannot be said for his faceless Hollywood instalments marred in stilted salaciousness. Consequently, The Grudge 2 is ruthlessly uneventful and as generically scary as stale pumpkin pie two weeks removed from a sedate Halloween party.
Shimizu and screenwriter Stephen Susco muster up some flexing fare in an underwritten story that seems tediously pointless in its rehashing of the same darn redundant premise that was emphasized in its predecessor. There's never anything convincingly captivating or refreshingly roguish about the synthetic suspense that percolates in Shimizu's canned creepy caper. Somehow, Shimizu is content with going through the shadowy motions without energizing this supernatural stinker with frothy thrills. With laughable deceased uniformed fleshy schoolgirls peeking out in the darkness or the futile dramatic jump cuts that dare to make us falsely twitch on command, The Grudge 2 is on the verge of making a transparent mockery out of the respectable Japanese horror genre.
Susco's scattershot script tries to create a moodiness of despair by suggesting that these omnipresent spooks are roaming around the territory as if they conquered a new land that would make historical explorers weep with envy. But the whole atmospheric affair feels overwrought in its ridiculousness. Sure, the freakish flourishes are occasionally rousing and Shimizu does have an avid eye for brandishing ominous imagery that intermittently radiates.
However, beyond these couple of points the movie is hollow in its harried rambling. But one cannot deny the intuitive motivation of the handlers behind The Grudge 2, namely that this wayward waste is likely to entice the desired demographic at hand (read: mindless young people). And why not? After all, it's these kind of vacuous vehicles that pit these clueless adolescents in the middle of the manufactured turmoil, right?
As erratic and convoluted as The Grudge 2 is in its inert execution, let's see if we can make heads or tails out of this meaningless macabre mess, shall we? Californian Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn, offspring of Oscar-winning actor Russ) is concerned about her mentally unbalanced sister Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar reprising her role from the first film) and decides to travel to Tokyo to find her. Of course some may recall Karen's chaotic dealings with the pesky spirits in the original Grudge flick that caused her to burn the house down (and kill her boyfriend) in an effort to eradicate the invisible invaders. Anyway, Aubrey is off to the Far East to reunite with the hospitalised Karen.
Soon, Aubrey teams up with a local Japanese reporter named Eason (Edison Chen) to investigate the infamous boarded house that somehow is embroiled in mayhem whenever someone decides to invade its doorstep and ultimately ends up dropping D-E-A-D. It's too bad that some folks (in this specific case a trio of teenage tarts) can't take a hint that the ghostly guests don't want their haunted house to be disturbed. Still, it doesn't stop the likes of the inquisitive Aubrey to ignore the warnings and stay away from the doomed domicile that had her own sibling Karen nervously sucking her thumbs in continuous fear. Naturally if Aubrey and others showed some common sense then maybe we wouldn't have to suffer the numbing antics that made up these insufferable Grudge outings.
There's a perplexing paint-by-the-numbers momentum to The Grudge 2 that renders this shoddy showcase so terribly disjointed. Shimizu's patchwork here is incoherent and doesn't have any imaginative bite whatsoever. The rhyme and reason behind why these ghoulish fiends appear all over the place-mainly in Tokyo's questionable "House of Pain" and Karen's health care facility to a Chicago-based family's residence-is just plain silly and indescribable.
It's like some desperate disguised excuse for Shimizu to wreak havoc and broaden the movie's graphic appeal by including other victims to amplify the stillborn proceedings. This unknowingly undermines the special uniqueness of the scrutinized haunted house where a poor soul that steps under its roof will get a rude awakening by the torturous Kayako's ghostly gang of gore.
True, this putrid production is cursed indeed but for all the wrong reasons. Laced with atrocious acting, dim-witted dialogue, tame intrigue and a bewildering plot that forces one to scratch their nagging head, The Grudge 2 plays by its own vapid rules. It doesn't bode well for Shimizu's plodding direction and Susco's thudding wooden screenplay to force the jagged pieces into a problematic puzzle of chintzy chills.
By all means, please hold a Grudge against this unbearable and meandering display in search of a legitimate scream. Somehow, chances are that we haven't seen the last of Shimizu's crack at another Ju-On/Grudge entry regarding a piercing bloodshot red eye, jeopardized cheerleading bimbos, dim-lighted isolated rooms, clogged shower stalls and a haunting mother-child tandem to boot. Lucky us, huh?
© Frank Ochieng 2006