After this installment in The Grudge franchise, it may be the audience that's holding one

The Grudge 2

on October 13, 2006 by Annlee Ellingson
It's clear in this sequel to 2004's $188 million-grossing horror flick that the franchise has exhausted the storylines capable of supporting its premise. Based on the Japanese Ju-on films, of which there is reportedly a fifth in production, once again the tortured sprit of a woman and her little boy killed in a rage by her jealous husband haunt their home and anyone who dares enter it. Like The Grudge before it, there are multiple plots here, but this time they are more tenuously related. Toying with time, director and Ju-on creator Takashi Shimizu quite clumsily intercuts what amounts to three short films on the same subject.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is the marquee name here, but she reprises her role from the original just long enough to pass the torch to Amber Tamblyn ( The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ), who plays her sister Aubrey. Not a risk-taker like her sibling, Aubrey nonetheless travels to Tokyo at the urging of her bed-bound mother to collect her sister, who's apparently started a fire that killed her boyfriend. Not long after her arrival, sis meets the same dramatic demise that Bill Pullman did in the film's predecessor (already there's a dearth of original ideas).

With the help of a journalist who's been following the story since the beginning, Aubrey sets out to find out what happened to her sister -- or, rather, he does and she just sort of plods passively after him. Their scenes together suffer perhaps at the hands of a director who reportedly speaks no English -- their exchanges are awkwardly paced, lethargic and obvious. And their attempt to discover the supernatural origins of the ghost woman's rage are disappointing and, worse, undermine the horrifying everydayness of what we'd accepted heretofore as the explanation.

Given the movie's marketing campaign, it would seem Aubrey's journey is the main thrust of the story, so it's initially difficult to place how a newly mixed Chicago stepfamily and three schoolgirls who enter the haunted house on a dare fit in. These storylines' very inclusion, coupled with the fact that the creep quotient remains flat through all three, demonstrates the limitations of a concept that's already peaked. Distributor: Sony
Cast: Amber Tamblyn, Arielle Kebbel, Jennifer Beals, Edison Chen, Sarah Roemer and Sarah Michelle Gellar
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Screenwriter: Stephen Susco
Producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Taka Ichise
Genre: Horror
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence and some sensuality
Running time: 91 min.
Release Date: October 13

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