Definitely not the cat’s meow

By and

“The Grudge 2”

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Takashi Shimizu

Written by Stephen Susco

Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Edison Chen, Jennifer Beals, Arielle Kebbel, Teresa Palmer, Matthew Knight and Sarah Michelle Gellar

Rated PG-13/95 minutes

Opened Oct. 13, 2006

Two-and-a-half out of four stars

I think we can all peaceably agree that a sequel to “The Grudge” is not necessary. Most of us saw that 2004 film, and some of us even liked it (I did), but even its supporters weren’t walking out of the theater smacking their lips, going, “Boy, I’d like some more of that.”

No, there are only so many places a story about meowing, throat-croaking, Japanese ghosties can go, and I believe that first film pretty much explored them all. But horror movie sequels have hardly ever been about expanding a storyline-more like rehashing it. If the scares are good and the mood is right, even an inferior sequel might have relative entertainment value.

“The Grudge 2” is certainly not inspired-it’s episodic and repetitive, lamely trying to explain the reason for the haunting (trying to explain supernatural events is about as maddening as trying to explain the appeal of Paris Hilton); but the filmmakers do create a nice, spooky mood, and the way two of the (seemingly) disparate storylines come together at the end is kind of clever. The editing effectively plays against our expectations of parallelism-and, yes, I’m using an “ism” word in a “Grudge” review.

I’m as surprised as you are.

Amber Tamblyn plays Aubrey, kid-sister to Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the terrorized nurse from part one. Aubrey’s been sent to Japan to fetch Karen from the hospital, where Karen is facing charges of arson and murder after she tried to burn down the haunted house with her dead boyfriend inside. If this case ever went to court, perhaps the prosecution would call the herky-jerky ghost lady to the stand. I can imagine the stenographer’s confusion as she tries to transcribe that strange croaking noise.

So anyway?

After a tragic turn of events, Aubrey returns to the haunted house with a journalist (Edison Chen) to get to the bottom of the horror. You’ll remember from the original that whoever enters the house is cursed and forever afterward stalked by a dead woman and her dead little boy who consume their victims with fury. These spooks can pop up anywhere and at anytime, sometimes even out of developer fluid in a dark room. They even know your cell phone number-so maybe if the dead woman gets in a prankster mood, she can call up her victims and say, “Seven days…”

Aubrey’s story is inter-cut with a story in Chicago where an American family seems to be haunted by similar ghosts. And a third story follows three high school girls (Arielle Kebbel, Teresa Palmer and Misako Uno) who boldly enter the house and pay the consequences.

The script by Stephen Susco has Aubrey tracking down the source of evil, but it’s mostly just an assemblage of “boo” moments-some scary, some just plain weird (a spaced-out girl chugs milk and then vomits it back up).

Takashi Shimizu, creator of the Japanese franchise on which the movie is based, directs this dreck as skillfully as possible-his ability to introduce terror in broad daylight is commendable. The horror is palpable, just not coherent.

There’s no reason to see this if you’ve seen the first one. What we learn about Kayako (the dead woman) is inconsequential considering it takes us to the same conclusion we came to last time. What is clear is that her grudge will never end-or, at least, it will end when her movies stop making money.