The Grudge 2: J-Horror “Re-Quel” Recycles Tired Scares

For a brief period of time, Hollywood studios were obsessed with Japanese horror. What followed was a glut of J-horror remakes that quickly saw diminishing returns. Things started off promising with the successful, and very scary, The Ring remake in 2002. Though The Grudge remake made money at the box office, critics were less impressed with its jumbled story. And that pretty much represents the highlights of the US J-horror movement. Given its box office success, however, a sequel shortly followed The Grudge. Not to be confused with Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge 2, Shimizu’s American sequel, The Grudge 2, underperformed critically and at the box office. A straight-to-video sequel followed before the franchise stayed dormant until this year’s poorly received remake.

Synopsis

After attempting to burn down the Saeki house, American Karen Davis is hospitalized in Japan. The ghost of Kayako still haunts her inside the hospital walls. Soon thereafter, Karen’s younger sister, Aubrey, arrives to try and bring her home. But Aubrey’s arrival, and subsequent interactions with a Japanese journalist, only affix the same curse to her. Meanwhile, several other unrelated individuals inadvertently have contact with the Saeki house. Now Kayako’s undying rage continues to spread, from person to person, unleashing an inescapable curse.

The Grudge 2 Recycles More of the Same Thing With Little Payoff

Technically, if you enjoyed The Grudge, you should find something to like about The Grudge 2. For all intensive purposes, the sequel is pretty much the same movie. Writer Stephen Susco and director Takashi Shimizu don’t just leave the formula untouched. They essentially recycle the same movie, subbing small details in place of others in what amounts to little more than superficial upgrades. There’s very little in the way of narrative advancement. Instead, The Grudge 2 operates like 80’s slasher sequels. New characters are thrown into familiar scenarios to introduce new variations on old scares. Given its rigid adherence to the same plot structure, The Grudge 2 suffers the issues as the original and US remake. With its unrelated characters and flipping timelines, The Grudge 2 often feels incoherent. Moreover, the narrative structure makes it difficult to attach to any one character’s plight.

Given its rigid adherence to the same plot structure, The Grudge 2 suffers the issues as the original and US remake.

Moreover, Susco and Shimizu make an effort to lightly retcon The Grudge. As The Grudge 2 hits its final act, the writer and director give Kayako an unnecessary backstory. It’s convoluted to say the least, undermining the movie’s central premise. Even worse, it’s storytelling that ultimate leads nowhere. Nothing is gain save for one additional opportunity to try and scare audiences.

The Grudge 2 Goes to the Well For Scares With Diminishing Returns

Say what you will about The Grudge – it has a few scary moments. And there’s a few iconic horror images in the movie as well. But the sequel has clearly run out of ideas. Certainly, Shimizu knows how to executive the same scares. There’s no problems where with editing or staging. Instead, there’s simply just no life left in the jolt-less jumps. Everything about The Grudge 2 feels perfunctory. Even when you are impressed with some shots, it’s more in a cognitive way. Nothing in the sequel prompts any sort of visceral reaction. This is a clinical, calculating sequel that lacks atmosphere or mood. Of course, the time-hopping narrative and carousel of characters further hurts the sequel’s atmosphere, much like it did the 2004 remake.

It’s the story-telling equivalent of painting yourself in a corner.

With regards to the cast, The Grudge 2 downgrades across the board. Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up briefly as little more than narrative glue. That is, her presence at least hints that the movie may be a proper sequel rather than a recycle. In Gellar’s place, the talented and likeable Amber Tamblyn takes over as the American lead. But The Grudge 2 gives Tamblyn far less to do than Gellar had in the 2004 remake. Outside of Tamblyn, no one else really registers, which is no fault of the performers themselves. We all know how the story works – anyone who comes into contact with the curse is doomed. No exceptions. It’s the story-telling equivalent of painting yourself in a corner. That it, there is no room for suspense or investment in character if everyone is doomed from the opening frame.

The Grudge 2 an Unnecessary Sequel That Serves as a Mild Diversion

In spite of its flaws, The Grudge 2 isn’t a bad movie. It’s a competent, workmanlike effort that’s content to give audiences more of what worked in the past. Neither the story nor filmmaking takes risks with the material. What you’re getting with The Grudge 2 is more of the same. If you loved The Grudge, you may be mildly diverted by the sequel. Conversely, even horror movie completists shouldn’t feel compelled to watch it. There’s a perfunctory quality to the proceedings that makes it inoffensive but bland.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C-

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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