Unlike 2004's The Grudge, which unfolded in a largely linear fashion, The Grudge 2 shakes things up a bit by splitting the narrative between three different plot lines that all take place at different times. First, there is the continuation, essentially, of the story from the first film, where Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is being kept in a hospital after surviving the ordeal of the first film, which centered around a house in Japan where a woman had been killed by her husband and thus created "The Grudge," a rage that consumes every living being that enters the house. Arriving from America to attempt to retrieve Karen is her sister Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn), who quickly becomes embroiled in the same situation as Karen. Second is a plot thread featuring Allison (Arielle Kebbel), an American girl in high school in Japan who is goaded by two classmates to enter the spooky house from the first film and finds that it lives up to its haunted house reputation. Finally, the third plot string plays out in Chicago, Illinois, where Trish (Jennifer Beals) has moved in with her boyfriend Bill (Christopher Cousins) and his two children, Lacey (Sarah Roehmer) and Jake (Matthew Knight). The same day as she moves in, so does a mysterious neighbor, after which everyone in the apartment complex starts acting weird.
When The Grudge 2 works, the best word to describe it is creepy. The horrific imagery, mostly of a long haired, blue skinned Japanese woman and a young child, is unsettling and when they appear on screen, accompanied by some equally disturbing sound effects, it can't help but send chills up and down your spine. However, the circumstances in which these characters make their appearances have used up the suspense quotient of this franchise. By now the rules are clear, when characters are alone and everything seems normal, these beings are popping up somewhere to scare the bejesus out of whoever is on screen and attempt to exact their revenge. It works sometimes, but the film fails to make any adjustments to the situations involving these beings, and you stop really being surprised by their appearance and begin expecting it. Yes, they are creepy, but the circumstances that surround them are relatively rote. Suspense works well when you can't predict what is going to happen, but in The Grudge 2, after a while, it all seems rather familiar.
The film's fractured narrative, while giving The Grudge 2 some difference from the previous entry, works against the film in many ways also. Because it is constantly switching back and forth between three different subplots, it is difficult to get attached to any of the characters. Of course, as this is a modern horror film, the characters are relatively thin to begin with, but with the constant cutting between stories, it becomes enormously difficult to get a bead on anyone and develop much attachment to them. So, when the characters find themselves in peril, you have a hard time feeling much sympathy for them. The Grudge 2 also has a plot twist, which early on becomes reasonably obvious, so when it plays out at the end, there isn't much surprise in store.
The actors are the usual batch of relative no names, for the most part. The girls in the film, which is what the stories largely center around, do their best to cry, scream and shake hysterically, and they are all reasonably effective, but there is nothing revolutionary being performed. Sarah Michelle Gellar reappears for a relatively small role, so she doesn't make much impact, and the other major actress, Jennifer Beals, is also saddled with what almost amounts to a bit part.
The Grudge 2 isn't a complete bomb, by any means, it is more than disturbing enough in moments to provide some general discomfort that horror films should try to apply. However, other than some chills here and there, The Grudge 2 doesn't offer anything tremendously original or scary, resulting in a largely mixed bag.