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The Grudge 2

The Grudge wrapped up with all its mysteries finished save one: When's Sarah Michelle Gellar going to die? The Grudge 2 answers that question pretty early, and then spends the rest of its time in a scattered exploration of the minutiae of the original Grudge story. For instance the big reveal this time is in explaining where Kayako's trademark croaking sound comes from. Not much of a payoff.

Fortunately, what The Grudge 2 lacks in plot it makes up for in cheap, tittilating scares. Creator and director Takashi Shimizu is a genius at cramming his ghosts into strange nooks and crannies and then scaring the beejeezus out of us as they pop out from wherever they've been hiding. After the first three or four times seeing that little kid sitting in the shadows you'd think it'd stop being scary, but Shimizu is so good at what he does that he keeps finding ways to make his audience jump out of their seat, even when his movie starts running long and Stephen Susco's script starts repeating itself.

The only place Takashi doesn't stuff his powdery ghosts is up a cheerleader's skirt, surprising since there are so many of them readily available in The Grudge 2. The film is stuffed to the gills with half-naked schoolgirls and leggy blond cheerleaders and seems to take particular glee in finding ways to get them haunted, tortured and killed by Kayako and her spooky clan. And why not? It's a lot of fun.

What's less fun is the movie's main storyline, which loosely follows Amber Tamblyn as Aubrey Davis, the sister of Sarah Michelle's Kara Davis character from the first movie. She wanders around Japan trying to figure out what happened to her sister, but we all know it's fruitless. There can only be one end for such a character and with her story so broken up by ghost panty raids and Jessica Beal in the middle of a strange, rage-driven domestic problem it's hard to work up enough energy to care what happens to her. By the end of the movie I was good and ready for Aubrey and just about everyone else in the film to drop dead. The movie's not excessively long, but ever second over 90 minutes feels unbearable. Cut it short guys. Base-level thrills don't work as well when they're stretched out.

As a normal movie I'd called The Grudge 2 a disaster. The plot is a mess as it abandons the original, and fairly simple premise of the first movie. It used to be simple. Go in the house, you'll end up dead. Now the curse has become more like the common cold, spreading around for no other reason than that it gives Shimizu a wider range of victims. I guess it was getting to be too much trouble to find ways to get people in the house. However, as a way to get good and scared I think The Grudge 2 works. It doesn't make a lot of sense and sometimes it's even laughable, but it's also scary as hell. Shimizu does cheesy, jump out of the shadows scares better than just about anyone. If that's what you're looking for, The Grudge 2 really delivers.