We begin The Grudge 2 exactly the same way that we began its predecessor. We get the same opening text that tells us about the curse that can occur if someone dies while in rage. Why do we need this again? I think I know why: The Grudge was forgettable and since number 2 has come out two years later, nobody would remember the original one, or how that house became cursed in the first place. Or maybe, like me, nobody cared to begin with.
After that redundancy, we meet three schoolgirls, who go to an English-speaking school in Japan. They’ve decided to go visit the haunted house from the first film, because, well, it’ll be fun, I guess. Surprise, surprise, they get cursed. That’s one storyline. The second, which I think is supposed to be the main one, involves Audrey (Amber Tamblyn) coming to Japan to visit her hospitalized sister, Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Karen was our lead in the last film, and, if you remember, ends up being engulfed in flames, but survives and ends up in hospital.
Surprisingly, Gellar gets less than 10 minutes on-screen this time, as she’s killed early on. So we follow Audrey and a journalist named Eason (Edison Chen), who both end up entering the house and becoming cursed. Sucks to be them, although it’s not really Aubrey’s fault, as Kayako (Takako Fuji), the villain of the series, pulls her in. Unlike the first film, where you could make a case for it being a cautionary tale, this one just wants to have a bunch of people being haunted by a ghost/demon/woman/thing.
There’s a third story as well, which takes place in Chicago. There’s a family of three living in an apartment, and the father, Bill (Christopher Cousins) is allowing his girlfriend, Trish (Jennifer Beals) to move in. The daughter, Lacey (Sarah Roemer) is fine with this, but the youngest, the son named Jake (Matthew Knight) isn’t. They don’t get along all that well, and — wait a second! Isn’t this supposed to be about a curse, or something? Yeah, that doesn’t really happen in this story until about the final quarter of the runtime, and serves as the low point of this film.
What we end up getting from the main story is the reason that Kayako has decided to go around killing people. Again, I need to question whether or not the reasoning matters. I know that I didn’t care about possible abuse that occurred when she was a child, or anything behind the motivation. There’s supposed to be a curse on the house because someone was killed in a fit of rage. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not, but I wish it had been.
The multiple plots, all taking place at different times, end up not being all that confusing, but the way that the curse works is. I’m less sure now about how it works than I was after the first Grudge, and that’s after being given an explanation. This is just something that doesn’t need a reason. I want to watch Kayako going around, haunting characters that I’ll grow to like. What I got was a bunch of underdeveloped characters, very few scares, and a bunch of exposition that was completely unnecessary. Not the makings of a good film.
Just like with The Grudge, I wouldn’t care about all this if it was a scary movie. That’s why people generally go to horror movies — they want to be scared. The Grudge 2 just doesn’t deliver in this regard. There are a couple of creepy scenes, particularly one where Kayako manages to implant her face on a bunch of pictures, but there just isn’t enough there to sustain the 90+ minutes that it take to get us to the end.
The question I’m left with after it ended was why Sarah Michelle Gellar was killed off early on in favor of her sister, a character that was never before mentioned. Since we’re going to have a complete lack of depth in terms of the characters, we had might as well keep the one familiar one so that the audience has someone to latch onto. But no, that doesn’t happen, and we end up seeing her smashed face on the pavement before too long.
There’s a great deal of mother-daughter relationship struggles that take place in The Grudge 2, although they seem forced in. Audrey and her ailing mother don’t start off on good terms, nor do they end well. And then there’s the relationship of Kayako and her mother, which comes out of nowhere when we’re being told what happened in the two characters’ past. You’d think that something would actually come of these two connections, but that’s not the case. Instead, they’re mentioned in order for us to get a little bit of understanding toward the characters, but in the end, nothing comes of the mention, nor does it alter how the characters act. And neither relationship gets “fixed” either; they end up just like they were at the beginning.
I’m still curious about what happens to other characters who go in the house, but we don’t get to see. After the fire was started in the previous film, we learn that Eason was the one to pull Karen out, saving her from death. But what about the firemen? And the investigators afterward? What happened to them? Have there been other children who have decided ot explore the “haunted house”? It’s mentioned that some other policemen went missing, but to me, this seems like it would be a small portion of the people who would be curious about such a house. There could likely be hundreds of stories told about people going inside, but I’m willing to bet they all go the same way: (1) Person goes inside. (2) Person is haunted. (3) Person dies. Just like these two movies, it’s predictable.
The Grudge 2 follows up The Grudge by being pretty much the same in both its problems and its plot, except it contains even more exposition that we don’t care about or need. It’s still not a scary movie, the characters are still not deep or interesting, and I just got tired of the same formula of Kayako haunting and then killing random people. I got worn down by this movie, and in the end, I wished I had never watched it.