The Grudge 2
When studios decide not to hold any advance screenings for a particular film, it's usually a sign of a lack of confidence in a movie. Not surprisingly The Grudge 2 was brought into the marketplace with little fanfare, leaving me to attend an after school matinee on opening day. Thankfully, the crowd of young teens helped make the hour-and-a-half-long sit a little more entertaining.
Presented in a non-linear fashion (as was the first Grudge), this second edition of the Japanese horror franchise jumps around in time and location faster than a rollercoaster. (I'm obviously not the only confused patron -- a thread on the movie's IMDB page has many others asking "what happened" questions.)
Sarah Michelle Gellar returns as Karen Davis, but only for a short while (it seems Gellar is moving on to bigger and better things). Her character meets an untimely demise (we could say she drops dead) minutes into the movie, just after her sister Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn) arrives in Tokyo to check on her. Horrified (and my teen companions scream on cue), Aubrey sets out to learn what killed her sister. The first point of her investigation is the mysterious house where it all began in The Grudge 1.
Meanwhile in another place and time, and shown from the perspective of the boy next door (Matthew Knight), a possessed young woman in Chicago (Arielle Kebbel) cowers in her bedroom chopping off her hair. So it appears the same evil Japanese spirit has made its way to the US of A...
But such plot points are really incidental (which is a good thing in this confusing, poorly written mess). What the filmmakers really want you to concentrate on is catching a glimpse of the whitened face that dons the poster of this film. Director Takashi Shimizu uses every opportunity to put his distressed creature into as many film frames as possible, be it in a reflection or peeking around a darkened doorway. While not particularly distressing for a jaded adult watching his third movie of the day, the targeted adolescent audience responded throughout with the hoped-for shrieks of terror (or perhaps delight).
Yet it is more likely that the scenes accompanying these frightful, ghostly images will be the ones creating the greatest concerns for family viewing. Content found here includes the depiction of two gruesome deaths -- one where a person falls from a building and hits the sidewalk in front of the camera, and another depicting a victim attacked and killed by a broken neck. The idea of spiritual possession and exorcism is also discussed. Sexual content is limited to one instance when a very young looking girl accompanies a man to a hotel room. Inside, she waits in bed while he showers (we see his naked back). A few mild profanities are heard and a secondary character that smokes incessantly is shown.
While this movie isn't anywhere near as black and gory as other current choices featuring chainsaws, it is still a dark little "thrill ride." Parents with teens clamoring for an inkling of horror will want assess what shades of gray meet their family's standards.