10 Years: “The Grudge 2”

Remakes are tough enough, but when a sequel to the remake is thrown in, it’s even harder to get right. Whatever it was that made the remake as decent as it was, can’t simply be duplicated. Horror films seem to suffer from this issue the most. There’s only so many times you can watch the psycho killer stalk his victim’s or the malevolent entity mysteriously kill someone. At some point, especially with little new being offered, enough is enough. Just pack it up and go home.

The Columbia Pictures film “The Grudge 2”, has its creepy moments, but doesn’t offer up much that’s new or rewarding, and isn’t truly all that scary.

This horror film stars Amber Tamblyn (“Inside Amy Schumer”, “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”), Arielle Kebbel (“Ballers”, “The Grinder”), Jennifer Beals (“The Night Shift”, “Manhattan Night”), Edison Chen (“Golden Chickensss”, “Almost Perfect”), Christopher Cousins (“UnREAL”, “Bosch”), Teresa Palmer (upcoming “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Lights Out”), Misako Uno (“Giga Tokyo Toy Box”, “Tokyo Toy Box”), Joanna Cassidy (“Odd Mom Out”, “Motive”), Sarah Roemer (“Chosen”, “Daybreak”), Matthew Knight (“The Good Witch’s Wonder”, “Skating to New York”), Takako Fuji (“Ghost in the Shell Arise: Border 2 – Ghost Whisper”, “Naruto: Shippuden”), Shawn Sipos (“Dark Matter”, “The Michaels”), Jenna Dewan (“Supergirl”, “Witches of East End”), and Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Those Who Can’t”, “Star Wars Rebels”).

The film was directed by Takashi Shimizu (“A Rain Woman”, “Flight 7500”) and written by Stephen Susco (“Beyond the Reach”, “High School”).

The film originally opened on Oct. 13, 2006.

It seems just like yesterday that I was writing about the “The Grudge”, but really it’s been two years, well, close to it. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve written about a lot of Asian horror remakes, and this one is purely coincidental. I’d planned on this film, with glee, several months ago, and now it’s just part of an unintentional series. I even almost started watching it last week, but decided, much to my dismay, that I could hold off for a week. And thus, we find ourselves here. Ready to discuss yet another entertaining let down of a sequel. “The Ring Two” and this film now have something in common, and that itself is surprising.

It’s terrible, but it’s not. I guess it depends on who you ask. Someone, like me, could find a lot to like about it, while still acknowledging that it’s got a lot of issues. Or, if you’re the average person, you’ll probably end up hating it and never want to watch another remake again, or a horror film, as there always seems to be little reason to do so.

This film, which I was surprised by, is still really creepy. However, that being said, it’s not consistently creepy. Some of the nonlinear storylines just can’t carry the same effectiveness of unnerving thrills as others can. But, for those who enjoy being really creeped out, and consider it a plus when even that can be achieved, you’re in luck! Like with the original film, this one too worked hard to get under your skin.

The storylines that did this the best were involving Tamblyn, Gellar, and Chen and Kebbel, Palmer, and Uno. Mostly it was from a similar slow burn style that the original utilized much better. Nothing came too quickly. You got a feeling for a certain location, like the house, took it all in and let your mind do the rest. Okay, yes, there were some cues from the film, but there had to be or it wouldn’t have worked at all. Then the reveal happened. Whatever “scary” moment was being led to surfaced and it worked. For me, even though I loved the execution, I wasn’t deeply disturbed. No, for that I’ll watch something else. I was disturbed enough, so that by the end of the film, the fear I’d been feeling on and off throughout it, could properly manifest itself in one final moment. Seeing as I can get things to linger a bit after finishing them, like I did after watching “It Follows” in an expectedly dark theater, I’ll call this a huge positive, almost a win.

The almost is because there wasn’t much else to get behind. Mystery was built, but it wasn’t the kind that truly drags you along because you desperately want to know what something is. You went along, just because. Not a bad thing really. This film has the power to keep you invested enough, which is good because there’s nothing worse than a boring horror film, or film in general.

There also wasn’t much in the way of characters. Depending on who you are, any of these characters could be likable, and even fun to watch. Each one was doing something completely different in their respective lives, so that parts not too hard. It also made it easier to care when any one of them was being terrorized by Kayako. With regards to character, I will say this. Tamblyn had the best and most emotionally moving story. It wasn’t just her relationship with her sister, which even as it was strained, clearly showed what Gellar meant to her. Then, which is harder to see, Tamblyn doesn’t have a great relationship with her mother, in so many ways. Her mother cares more for Gellar than she probably should. In any other film, this type of family drama might be fun, but this one just makes everything we’re seeing all the more sad.

Sadder yet, as far as this film is concerned, is that it did what the now delayed film “Rings” is aiming to do. Messed with the mythology of the supernatural entity and how it happens to exist. It may not be a major part of this film, or even pivotal or some other such word, even though that was the attempt, but it stands out a lot. Somehow I’d managed to forget about it in the years since I last saw this film. It just didn’t work. Even Kayako’s mother tells Tamblyn that she did not create this curse, that she isn’t responsible for the ghost now killing people. I laughed at that, as Tamblyn is clearly desperate for any explanation as to why this is happening. Susco is also quite desperate. That’s the problem with sequels of this sort. How do you keep the franchise going when you delivered well the first time around? How do you surprise people and keep their interest? Well, it’s not by doing this. In a noble effort at extending the franchise and giving this installment something new, Susco just provided a far fetched nonsensical reason.

It’s always a bit weird to finish up writing about one of these films. I like it enough, but at the same time there’s so much on the negative side, I can’t avoid bringing it up. It’s almost a duty I have. The interesting thing is, at least with this film is, I don’t think I’ll suddenly stop watching and loving this film. Some films don’t need a lot to get me to watch over and over, just a few small things, decently handled, and I’m there! If I know I’m not going to get much from a specific genre film, then the least I can hope for are a few smaller elements that make it a bit more worth my time.

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