Reviewed by: Robert A. Kouba
|Featuring||Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Tamblyn, Arielle Kebbel, Teresa Palmer, Jennifer Beals|
|Producer||Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Joe Drake|
|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures|
“What Was Once Trapped, Will Now Be Unleashed”
There is a theme prevalent in Japanese culture that if a person dies in a circumstance, with extreme emotion, then something is left behind. This metaphysical stain affects all those it comes in contact with. On our shores, this phenomenon was introduced into the mainstream as “The Grudge.”
“The Grudge” leaves off with the hospitalization of Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar), after she tried to burn down the house responsible for claiming many lives. Actually, it is not the house itself, but rather the ghosts spawned from a family’s dying in a violent rage three years earlier. Karen decides to burn the place down, after she sees her boyfriend die in front of her. She is unsuccessful (have to hand it to the Tokyo Fire Brigade) and arrives at the hospital relatively unscathed.
“The Grudge 2” continues the story as Karen’s sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn) is drafted by their mom to bring Karen back from Tokyo. Reluctantly, Aubrey takes the assignment. However, Karen dies shortly after Aubrey gets to Tokyo, and Aubrey decides to investigate the mysterious house that is the root of her sister’s death. With a journalist in tow, Aubrey vows to not return home until she finds out what caused her sister’s death.
Although this is straightforward, the film actually comes across quite disjointed. Screenwriter Stephen Susco, who used two interwoven stories to tell the first Grudge, now tries to use three interlaced stories in different time periods. Along with the tale of two sisters, the film also follows a couple of Tokyo schoolgirls who play a prank on another girl by locking her inside one of the house’s closets. All become “infected” with the curse. Finally, the film begins and ends with a story about a newly formed family that starts to notice and experience weird things in their apartment building when a stranger inhabits the apartment next door.
So what works in “The Grudge 2”? Well, I have to say that director Takashi Shimizu has a great grasp of what works visually, and the sound is superb. The film doesn’t have as much gore as the first (which was tame by American standards), and instead relies on the startling appearances of its open-mouthed apparitions. I also like that through sound and expression, the director evokes feelings that something is wrong, through basic actions like drinking of milk. Of course, the repeated regurgitation of said milk back into the jug is where things get disturbing. There are also only three or so swear words, and one use of the Lord’s name in vain. However, this is not to say that the material here is for all ages.
Besides the pale apparitions that emanate strange noises, the film also has more visceral moments. The film begins with a wife, seemingly tired of her husband’s complaining, pouring a skillet of bacon grease on his head, whacking him with the skillet, and then calmly finishing breakfast over his dead body. The original killing of the house’s tenants is seen, which includes three murders and a suicide. A couple’s conversation is brought to an unforeseen end when a body crashes to the pavement beside them. The PG-13, rather than R-rating, comes from the director’s careful approach to the material. The actual, onscreen violence is perpetuated by the viewer’s imagination, by cutting from the scene or altering an angle when things would get nasty. However, what you imagine might be worse than what would normally be seen.
Along with metaphysical mayhem and physical violence, a few other scenes raise a caution flag. One of the schoolgirls, with a somewhat dubious reputation, begins a night of promiscuity with her boyfriend, only to be interrupted before anything starts. Another scene shows the inside of a girl’s locker room with several shots of girls in their underwear. Still another in the same sequence shows a girl urinating down her legs because she is so frightened. Japanese exorcism and spiritual cleansing is also explored. It should be worth noting that this film is deeply rooted in eastern mysticism and folklore riddled with tales of spirits and demons. The actual belief system is not the focus of the film, but rather the basis.
Overall, I would not recommend the picture. The content, while not a “slasher” film, is scary in its own right, and the objectionable content would overwhelm young, impressionable viewers. Beyond that, the script and the acting really only served to get from scare to scare. And while I appreciate the style of the direction, the cheesy plot, along with massive amounts of coincidence inserted into a convoluted story, do not make for a good film. I am fine with “suspension of disbelief,” as long as it doesn’t break the continuity of the film or affect the pacing. Unfortunately, continuity, pacing, and in the end, myself, were all victims of this shoddy sequel.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor
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