The Grudge 2

If there’s anything more pointless than a sequel that simply duplicates its predecessor’s story and characters, it’s a review of that sequel. Welcome to Pointless Town, population “The Grudge 2” and me.

Again directed by Takashi Shimizu and again written by Stephen Susco, this sequel to the 2004 hit (which was a remake of a Japanese hit) continues to believe that the scariest thing a movie could possibly feature is a ghostly Japanese woman or little boy appearing suddenly on the screen. Shimizu further believes that if the event is accompanied by a shriek of violins on the soundtrack, then you have perpetrated the most frightening thing ever committed to film.

By those standards, “The Grudge 2” must surely be a terrifying experience, for hardly five minutes can pass without some pale, bug-eyed ghost appearing. Ninety percent of the time, all these ghosts do is appear, usually with the effect of terrifying whoever sees them. The 10 other percent of the time, the ghosts actually attack their victims, though what they actually DO to them is never made clear.

After a while, these jump scares become predictable and obvious, and you start to think, hey, wait a minute, maybe this movie isn’t scary after all! Maybe the movie has just been using gimmicks and tricks to make us THINK it’s scary, to distract us from its complete lack of original content! As this realization dawns on you, you feel stupid for not having spotted it earlier — like, say, when you saw the ads on TV.

The film follows three storylines, two of which seem irrelevant until the end, when the loose ends are gathered and the master plan is revealed (sort of). First of all, Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) is sent to Tokyo to check on her sister, Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who in the first film was terrorized by the ghosts and eventually set their house on fire in an attempt to destroy them. Karen’s in the hospital now, a little worse for wear and completely insane.

Meanwhile (or maybe later, or maybe before), three high school girls go into the haunted house, which we know is a bad idea because everyone who enters the house winds up being pestered by the ghosts. Sure enough, that’s what happens.

Thirdly, an American family in Chicago is disturbed by weird noises coming from their neighbors’ apartment.

What does it all mean?! you ask. It means “The Grudge” made $187 million worldwide, thus assuring a sequel would be made whether anyone had a good idea for one or not. (Shimizu made a sequel to his Japanese original, too, but this is not a remake of it.) “The Grudge 2” brims with bad dialogue badly delivered, and there’s very little suspense for the simple reason that too often, we have no idea what the heck’s going on. It’s hard to be scared and baffled at the same time.

C- (1 hr., 35 min.; PG-13, a little violence, some disturbing images, general creepiness.)