There are two types of people who awake with an uneasy feeling on Friday the 13th: the superstitious, and those who just can’t stomach the release of another horror sequel, remake, or (in this case), sequel to a remake. But for fans of The Grudge, the day will be a lucky one.
“The Grudge 2,” director Takashi Shimizu’s sequel to his 2004 film The Grudge (itself a remake of his original Japanese version Ju-On) picks up where the last film left off, with The Grudge star Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in the hospital and her sister (Amber Tamblyn) newly in Tokyo. Karen’s sister, Aubrey, steps into her sister’s world of horror and quickly becomes the protagonist in a topsy-turvy continuation of the first film. The horrific child with huge eyes and the pale waif with a curtain of black hair continue to torment the innocent by appearing unpleasantly under desks and in reflections. In addition to disturbing Aubrey, the ghastly pair extend their reach to other unfortunate victims, affecting multiple families.
The film is notable for its ability to tie the families’ stories together and provide an intriguing and complex narrative to complement the gratuitously scary imagery. While not groundbreaking, fans of The Grudge will likely be satisfied with new developments in the story. The film is designed to scare, but while some imagery is truly nightmarish, it is not as morally unsettling or blatantly violent as, say, Kill Bill or other films of the hack-and-dismember nature (Shimizu’s brand of scariness seems more innocent). There are definitely, however, haunting images and unexpected moments designed to keep the audience from getting too comfortable.
Some viewers might find this sequel to be a little cheesier and more Americanized than its predecessor, with more depiction of high-school drama and less tendency to take itself seriously. Perhaps under the assumption that most viewers will expect what in the last film was unexpected, Shimizu seems to enjoy the freedom of simply entertaining without pressure to create something wholly unexpected. Seemingly unconcerned with disturbing audiences and more concerned with satisfying those haunted-house junkies who like a good scare, some viewers might find themselves laughing with the absurdity of how far they can jump out of their seats.
Parents should know that this film has haunting and unexpected flashes of very scary (although not usually violent) images. There are moments of disturbing violence, such as a woman pouring sizzling hot oil from a frying pan on a man’s head and then hitting him with the pan. There is also some school bullying that results in some scary moments, and there are images one character drowning and another falling onto the pavement from the top of a skyscraper.
In the film, the sisters’ relationship is depicted as strained. Families who see this film should talk about the factors that lead to the two sisters not being “on speaking terms,” and why Aubrey got angry with her sister. They might also discuss Aubrey’s regret that she didn’t reconcile with Karen, as well as Aubrey’s relationship with her mother. One girl is bullied at school with disheartening consequences; families should also discuss bullying and ways to handle mocking and peer pressure. Two children in one family are adjusting to their father’s girlfriend moving into the home — parents might discuss with their children why the young son acts quiet and moody, and how the older sister is supportive and caring for her younger brother.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Grudge and might like to see its original Japanese version, Ju-On. Some other films of the same genre include The Ring and The Ring Two, directed by Gore Verbinski (who also directed the first two Pirates of the Caribbean films and is currently filming the third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.