(not that I’d want Peter Venkman anywhere near this lot…)
WARNING: Contains major spoilers and discussion of the events and plot. Because it’s more fun that way. Contains exasperated swearing.
The Ring is better. Far far better. Let’s get that clear from the start. Ideally it’d be the version without Naomi Watts, but at least in those movies there’s usually some sort of a deal made when you piss off Sadako, and an interesting way to perpetuate the curse.
The annoyingist (sic) thing about The Grudge and all its sequels and remakes lies in the victims total helplessness once they’ve annoyed the weird-looking ghosts. All you have to do is end up in the house. That’s it. Once you’ve wandered within its walls, it’s open season. Before you know it you’re being stalked by the weird little boy with a cat’s soul (and voice), the twitching, croaking, long haired, crawling woman. They’re everywhere you look. They now have free licence to murder you. Exactly how is not defined. And neither is your time of death.
Once they’re irritated, they begin operation ‘haunt you to death’. Basically, they fuck with you, lurking behind coat racks, under desks, inside the hood of your…hoody top. They torture the hapless cast for as long as they can get away with, then pop up in an undead ‘peekaboo’ and snatch you off to somewhere that’s never really explained. This happen a LOT. The large cast of characters makes it difficult to connect with them, or to really, truly care when the spooks make their moves. Plus, the story is told out-of-sequence in a way that only Tarantino and that Memento guy can get away with. As a consequence, I don’t actually remember what any of them were called.
In this remake of a sequel to a remake, this is even more of a mess. It’s all downhill after they kill off Sarah Michelle Gellar, and leave us with her wimpy sister. She’s sort-of trying to find out what happened and how to stop it. She’s sort-of getting help from a nice bloke who knows something about the curse, but he still goes inside the house. She’s sort-of trying not to go inside the house too when somehow the ghosts yoink her inside. She sort-of tries to get help from the female ghost’s mother (a professional curse-lifter), only to lead the ghosts there and get everyone killed. Then she returns to the house and gets killed. And…? Nope, that’s her story. Blah.
Boo! Behind yooou! Turn around!
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ‘sister’ gets haunted
As well as SMG’s sister, we have two other story threads providing fodder for our spooks. One follows a luckless trio of schoolgirls who enter the house on a dare. Despite this being set in Japan, one of the weirdest things about the Grudge remakes seem to be that nearly all the characters getting involved in the curse aren’t Japanese. They’re invariably American and appear to be in the country purely to get killed by the ghosts! Of the three schoolgirls, one is a slutty Japanese girl (who visits a sex hotel with her white boyfriend), the other is a slutty blonde girl (think a dumber version of Rachel MacAdam’s character in Mean Girls). And then there’s the obligatory frumpy brunette, who survives into the finale. Don’t ask me how.
Three normal schoolgirls. A very haunted house. What could possibly go wrong?
This third schoolgirl goes home to her family in America, and the ghosts are nice enough to hang on during the flights and the drive, only to extend their fucking-with people to actual Americans in America. Perhaps it was payback? Anyway, thanks to the choppy timeline, her story finally intertwines with the family of a young boy in a flat beside hers. When she returns to the States, the ghosts start to possess the people in the building. You know, a bit like the Shining. Sort of.
Sadly, as the family gets barely a sliver of screen time (there are cheerleaders to consider, folks) a potentially interesting angle on this intangible curse gets squitted away. We’re left with yet more spooky pointlessness, only this time with a little kid (who isn’t a bad actor) trying to survive the curse. Only he doesn’t. There’s no cure, no deal, no arc. It’s hopeless. Futile. And not in a good, bleak way. It wouldn’t suck quite so hard if we had some sort of payoff when the ghosts attack – vanishing isn’t really enough. Bodies go somewhere…if only to scare the lead actress at the end.
While The Grudge 2 manages some decent spooky images, (scary lady crawling out of a dark-room tray, anyone?), it’s still a vapid exercise in remakes and storytelling. I understood the point of the original Japanese version of the Grudge. Ju-On seemed to explain that it wasn’t the boy or the lady killing people, it was the enraged father. Even with everything in Japanese, this made more sense. In the remakes they’ve become an unstoppable duo against which the characters haven’t the slightest chance. And frankly, this just makes it into an empty experience. It’s not like Freddy Kruger. You don’t end up rooting for the spooks – and you won’t – no matter how many times they remind you that they were murdered, and how, and where. Over and over.
So, a fun ‘jump’ movie, maybe. But not that scary, certainly not rewarding, and for heaven’s sake don’t pay for it! One to forget. Which I can, following this review.
Now, what’s making that creepy rattling noise…?