It's now been 5 years since "The Ring", and yet, Japanese horror remakes are still finding their way to the big screen, despite diminishing returns for films like "Pulse" and "The Ring 2", as well as the films being parodied in the "Scary Movie" series.
"The Grudge 2" (director Takashi Shimizu - who directed the original Japanese "Grudge" films - returns) starts shortly after the events of the first film, with two girls - Vanessa (Teresa Palmer) and Miyuki (Misako Uno) making fun of quiet outsider Allison (an absolutely unrecognizable Arielle Kebbel). They dare her to head into the evil house of the first film and...well, nothing good can come out of that, can it?
Meanwhile, Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, in a cameo), who tried to stop the curse in the first film, is visited in her hospital room by her sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn of "Joan of Arcadia" fame), who wants to bring her home. Instead, the creepy ghosties of the first film return, taking Karen out of the picture first and then setting their sights on Aubrey.
Meanwhile (there's a lot of "meanwhile"'s in this film, and the fractured storyline really isn't handled very well), a family in America has moved into their new home and find that things are quite different after a mysterious neighbor moves in down the hall. Soon enough, the curse has found its way into their house as the curse apparently goes international. All the storylines are worked out, in so-so fashion, at the end.
The film does manage a few decent jump scares (and a spooky bit of effects work in a photo lab sequence), but for a PG-13 rated horror film, this one certainly feels every bit a PG-13, always cutting away right before the peak of the "scary moments". The performances aren't anything to write home about, with Tamblyn seeming - for the first time - a bit stiff and too withdrawn. While I've liked Tamblyn in other films, she just seems miscast here.
Fans of the original may want to try this one out as a rental, but it's a disappointing follow-up to the original. Streamlining the script may have helped and, after doing "The Grudge" once already in English and multiple "Grudge" films in Japan, a new director may have been a benefit here. The ending sets up a third film, and hopefully someone with a fresh perspective will be at the helm if it does happen.
The rated edition arrived for review, but an unrated edition will also be available on the same date.
VIDEO: "Grudge 2" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation offered reasonably solid image quality, with some minor concerns. Sharpness and detail weren't outstanding, but the picture at least appeared fairly crisp throughout the show. Flaws included some minor artifacting and a few instances of slight edge enhancement. Colors remained muted throughout, but appeared accurately presented.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is terrific during the scare sequences, with sounds suddenly zipping from one speaker to another and popping up in the surrounds. Sound effects hit with a deep, powerful thump of low bass and dialogue remains crisp and clear throughout. While I wasn't always creeped out by the film, the sound design certainly gave a spooky mood to the proceedings.
EXTRAS: One extra is an 8-minute montage of people holding up the reel change clapperboard (seriously.) "East Meets West" is a 15-minute look at the making of the film, from wardrobe, to working with the Japanese crew to casting and stories from the set. It's pretty fluffy stuff, but slightly better than most EPK featurettes. We also get a short featurette on the development of the storyline for the sequel and another featurette on the director. Finally, three deleted scenes are included, as well as previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: Fans of the first film will likely want to give this a spin to see the continuing storyline, but they may want to go in with lowered expectations, as this is a step down from the original. The DVD presentation offers fine video quality, solid audio and a few minor extras.
The Film C