The Grudge 2

(2006) * Pg-13
102 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Takashi Shimizu. Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Tamblyn, Arielle Kebbel, Teresa Palmer, Jennifer Beals.

2000: Ju-On and Ju-On 2. 2003: Ju-on: The Grudge and Ju-on: The Grudge 2. 2004: The Grudge. 2006: The Grudge 2. 2007: barring an attack by a pallid, screeching boy-wraith, writer-director Takashi Shimizu releases the fifth and purportedly final installment in the Ju-on series. Gee, do ya promise? Because I'm not sure I can stand to watch this movie again. And I don't like the sound of that old hag you have spouting, "There can be no end to what has started.."

Long ago, it became apparent that, like his boy-wraith, Emperor Shimizu has no clothes. The original films' weaknesses are only compounded in the awkward American remakes, both of which are credited as "based on Ju-On: The Grudge." The Grudge 2 "stars" Amber Tamblyn as Aubrey Davis, mopey sister of Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Croaking "Bring her back," the girls' mother (clock-punching Joanna Cassidy) sends Amber from Pasadena to Tokyo in search of Karen. But Gellar's no-doubt fat paycheck only bought a coupla days work, so you'll have to settle for a sour Tamblyn, charm dutifully buried.

There are more characters, all equally ephemeral, as Shimizu gets his freak on scene by scene. Increasingly, his films are emotional black holes, nightmarish assemblages built around anti-characters. A few bits and pieces generate jolts or laughs (usually both), but Shimizu has proven consistently disinterested in narrative construction. Instead he promotes a mind-numbingly repetitive structure for a series that's already reproduced in what seems like bureaucratic triplicate: slow flatness that gradually intensifies to a scary movie jolt. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat the whole film.

It's back to the showers, literally, with the tropes of modern Asian horror: short-skirted schoolgirls, fetal positions, static, and traumatic paralyzations. Whatever meaning you want to ascribe to Shimizu's recurrent images, like eyes peering through ripped paper, is as good as any other. If only they were scary or inventive, instead of more suddenly boring glimpses of the caterwauling boy and the goth chick with the thread-like hair. If Shimizu's aging idea of rage-made wraiths were true, caterwauling critics would be crawling all over the multiplex right about now.

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