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Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) travels to Japan to see her sister Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who has been hospitalised following a fire in her Tokyo home. Karen seems disturbed and when journalist Eason (Edison Chen) suggests that her state has something to do with the burnt out house, Aubrey is drawn into an amateur investigation that brings to the surface a family history best left untouched. Soon, the ghoulish and fidgety family residing in the house's attic (and bathroom and hallway and staircase) are back up to their old tricks. At the same time, a dysfunctional family in a Chicago apartment block is hearing things go bump in the night. Could the two possibly be connected?

Review by Joel Meares:
Including two shorts, the Japanese original Ju-on, its sequel, the American remake and now its follow-up, Takashi Shimizu has directed six films about the grudge curse. Shimizu has grown fond of his ghosts and in The Grudge 2, this fondness is apparent. He puts them everywhere - in cupboards, under covers, behind mirrors, under desks and rather inexplicably, lurking within the hoods of sweaters. Yet, from our first sight of the pale, gaping, grudge-bearing Kayako (Takako Fuji), a suspicion that we all held is confirmed: these ghouls are no longer frightening. In fact, since Scary Movie 4 spoofed this spectral family into cinematic oblivion, they are downright hilarious. Thus, Shimizu's entire enterprise is undone. Every moment of intended terror becomes a slapstick gem, carefully constructed boo frights hit with the hilarity of Lucille Ball stepping on a rake. The Japanese kids are funny enough, but wait until Shimizu puts his American cast in the ghoulish make-up chair. Suddenly we're in a Christina Aguilera video.

It's a shame Shimizu got all hot for his ghosts, because there is a certain admirable ambition to the narrative construction of this second sixth Grudge. The story has a tripartite structure. Aubrey vies for attention in Tokyo with a tale of three international schoolgirls playing games in the wrong closet in the wrong house. A third plot, set in Chicago, works the best by far. Perhaps because Shimizu is on unfamiliar geographical ground he tells a sound and more original story, focusing on talented child actor Matthew Knight and a motherly Jennifer Beals to reveal a family unravelling, rather than allowing his lunatic ghoulies to completely dominate. Unfortunately, the story gets a little too ambitious for its own good. The ghosts' motivations and basic modus operandi are completely unclear and the divided narrative is often too digressive to develop with any sustained suspense.

Ultimately, Shimizu achieves a near impossible task. His film is predictable but simultaneously baffling. It has a twist ending you can spot a mile off but will probably never understand. Confusion soon becomes boredom, and Tamblyn, a dour lead, is no antidote to the snooze. Shimizu is a director who favours the repetition of an image he believes is terrifying over logic or sense at any level. I think it is time he questioned his beliefs.

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(US, 2006)

CAST: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Tamblyn, Edison Chen, Arielle Kebbel, Jennifer Beals

PRODUCER: Takashige Ichise, Robert G. Tapert

DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu

SCRIPT: Stephen Susco, Takashi Shimizu (film - Ju-On: The Grudge)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Katsumi Yanagishima

EDITOR: Jeff Betancourt

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Marcynuk, Iwao Saito

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 26, 2006

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