The “shock death” that kicks off The Grudge 2 (2006) has to be one of the least shocking “shock deaths” ever committed to film… partly because the first movie began with such a similar set-up (older couple in an apartment… one is talking while the other is quiet… almost too quiet!), but mostly because it’s identical to the “shock death” that kicked off an episode of Six Feet Under (ep. 1.10), that aired back in 2001. I remember that episode well because Illeana Douglas had a very funny (and Emmy-nominated) cameo in it… but still, I doubt there were many people in the audience who couldn’t guess how that “cold open” would close. After that though, things take a turn for the better, and I actually found myself getting seriously creeped out as events unfolded. I know this movie got some very harsh reviews, and I would agree that it suffers from a severe lack of coherent plotting and character development… but, as I said before, that isn’t necessarily what I’m looking for in “J-Horror” flicks. My priorities are more like: Did it make me scared to go to sleep? Check. Did it make me laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity/audacity? Check. Did it feature super-cute actresses dressed in schoolgirl uniforms? Check, check, check!
The cast isn’t quite as stellar this time around, but SMG does return for an “extended cameo” as the hospitalised ‘Karen’, whose mother has dispatched a younger sister, ‘Aubrey’, to visit her in Tokyo. Said sibling is played by Amber Tamblyn (of Travelling Pants and poetry fame), and I think it’s fair to say that she acts her heart out as she’s put through an emotional wringer by her ghostly tormenters. You also have to give her credit for managing to maintain such a lush hairstyle throughout her many misadventures… but even those lovely locks aren’t enough to enliven a pointless subplot exploring the non-origins of the eponymous “grudge”. Meanwhile, the story of the three “international” schoolgirls daring each other to enter the haunted house was a rather pale imitation of a similar strand from Ju-On: The Grudge, and their first few scenes together are rather awkward and wooden… but once the curse kicks in, the pace picks up considerably. I especially like the way that the ghosts seem to use ‘Allison’ (played by Arielle Kebbel, of American Pie: Band Camp fame) as a carrier, to help them travel to the USofA. Apparently the next sequel in the series was a cheap straight-to-DVD release, which is a shame because I’d quite like to see the spooky epidemic spread, so that it becomes a major threat to national security, and the government has to assemble an army of kick-ass nuns and witches to fight it! No? Just me then…
On the American side of things, Jennifer Beals (of Flashdance fame) and relative newcomer Sarah Roemer play Allison’s unfortunate neighbours, and imbue their characters with far more charm and spirit than the under-written roles really call for. Bless ‘em. Roemer also appears in the funniest scene in the whole film, and really helps to sell the insanity of it… I mean, technically all she does is watch her best friend drink milk, but in context it’s hilarious!
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