Wes Craven’s “Scream 2” is far from a masterpiece, but if more horror sequels followed its template, movies like “The Grudge 2” would be a lot less irritating.

Morgan Morel
I wonder if Pantene Pro V would work on this. (Courtesy of Columbia)

Hate it or love it, “Scream 2” was the rare sequel to capture the zing of the original, churning out scares even while casually poking fun at its own silly conventions. “The Grudge 2” takes its silly conventions seriously, making the shortcomings of the original’s ridiculous story all the more obvious.

The new film begins where the first left off: failing to build suspense.

We find injured heroine Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) strapped to a hospital bed in Japan and accused of killing her boyfriend from the first film. We all know the creepy curse (re: the grudge) is responsible, but we’re forced to watch crazy a Gellar emote ignorance anyway. When Buffy mysteriously bites the dust, it’s up to her estranged sister, Joan of Arcadia – sorry, Amber Tamblyn (“The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants”) – to pick up the pieces and save the day.

From there, “The Grudge 2” simply replicates the structure of its predecessor, which didn’t give its sequel much to live to up to in the first place.

Rather than learn from the original’s flaws, “The Grudge 2” delves deep into the plot holes that sunk it, running three parallel stories that combine for a rather anticlimactic ending. Two of these stories take place in Japan and the other in Chicago, where a cloaked victim spreads the curse to an unsuspecting family a few doors down.

The curse supposedly causes uncontrollable rage in each victim it touches. But if this is the case, why the hell does the Chicago family go around stalking and killing everybody else? If these victims are cursed with uncontrollable rage, why aren’t they all killing each other? “The Grudge 2” only briefly attempts to answer this, opting for bald scares over any real plot development or, you know, logic – not that the film provokes an ounce of thrills either.

What’s most troubling is that everything from its hokey family of ghosts to its lame editing tricks incites more laughter than goosebumps. The highlight of horror films should at least be a handful of suspenseful moments or well-choreographed chase sequences, but “The Grudge 2” bores us with multiple moments where victims actually stand still and watch as their so-called tormentors crawl slowly through photographs, air vents and beds to attack them.

As the helmer of “The Grudge” series and its Japanese forerunner “Ju-on,” you’d think director Takashi Shimizu would have enough know-how to direct an effective horror film. Before making the inevitable “Grudge 3” train wreck, Shimizu should take a look at the work of Craven. Despite its flaws, at least “Scream” offered its audience a choice of horror or comedy. “The Grudge 2” has nothing.

Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

The Grudge 2
At the Showcase and Quality 16

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