both know and care not that some will disagree, but for my money
Shimizu Takashi's Ju-on: The Grudge was
definitely one of the high points of the modern J-Horror
cycle. In the shape of the spider-crawling Kayako and the
ghostly young Toshio, it added two new characters to
the horror hall of fame, plus a sound that is as instantly
recognisable as Hannibal Lector's hungry slobber from Silence
of the Lambs or the growl of the Thing in the Woods
from The Evil Dead. Its non-linear structure
provided some very specific narrative pleasures and, most
important of all, it was genuinely scary cinema.
The Grudge 2 was inevitable because
it had already happened before. The 2003 cinema version
of Ju-on was a remake of a TV version from
2000, also directed by Shimizu, and the made-for-TV sequel
had followed quickly on the footsteps of its predecessor.
Even as the movie version of Ju-on 2 was
being prepped, the signs were that a franchise of serious
proportions had been born. Over in the States, Sam Raimi had
liked Ju-on so much he invited Shimizu
to go to America and have another go at it. Just last week
Shimizu's American remake of Ju-on 2 was
released across the pond, while Shimizu has since returned
to Japan to start work on Ju-on: The Grudge 3,
which I have absolutely no doubt will be remade in Hollywood
in the next couple of years, probably by Shimizu himself.
Are you following all this?
Ju-on 2, this Ju-on 2,
begins with pregnant actress Kyoko – "The Queen of Horror"
we are reliably informed – being driven home by her boyfriend Masashi
when they accidentally run over something. Masashi gets
out to investigate and discovers that he's hit and killed a
cat, and there's nothing they can do to help it now. He gets
back in the car and drives off, but when Kyoko looks down
she sees the ghostly figure of a young boy (Toshio from
the first film) staring up at her from underneath the steering
wheel, which he is manipulating beyond Masashi's control, causing the car to crash. Masashi is left in a coma and Kyoko has
a miscarriage. Or does she? A short while later, a doctor
matter-of-factly informs her that her pregnancy is progressing
well, much to her astonishment. By then she's already working
on a new horror film, a recreation of the events triggered
off the first Ju-on film that is being
shot in the very house in which they took actually place. Uh-oh...
Those familiar with Ju-on: The Grudge will
very quickly find themselves on recognisable ground, from
the non-linear structure and its character-named chapters
to the sudden and unnerving appearances of both Toshio and
Kayako, visible to some characters but unseen by others.
And it all works rather well. Once again the broken mirror
approach to the story mystifies moments that
are later explained when events are observed from a different
viewpoint, and piecing together the story from the provided
shards has its very specific rewards.
must admit that to being a little disappointed
by my first viewing of Ju-on 2. This was partly down to an
inescapable sense of déjà vu that comes from
revisiting ground so effectively covered before in the very
same style, coupled with a nagging sense that we haven't really moved
on from then. The whole sinister pregnancy storyline dates
back to Rosemary's Baby and the satanic
cycle that followed in the wake of The Exorcist,
and the filmmakers' stated intention of exploring issues
of motherhood looks seriously under-developed when compared
Nakata Hideo's handling of the same theme in his 2001 Dark
of the scares have clearly been designed as stand-alone
set-pieces and you can almost imagine the script meetings
where new ways of unleashing Toshio and (especially) Kayako
on the cast were devised, giving the film a somewhat inconsistent
supernatural logic, if such a thing can be said to exist.
But countering this is the fact that many of these scenes are skin-crawlingly creepy, and on the second and third viewing,
by when I had joined all of the narrative dots, I found
myself more appreciative of Shimizu's undeniable imagination
and skill as a horror director. Perhaps most impressive
is that three viewings in, the creepiest scenes still gave
me a couple of shudders, and if a couple of them are a little
hokey – Toshio's head appearing as a football, Kayako slowly
reaching out to touch a sleeping figure like a ghoul from
a 1930s Hollywood horror – others are genuinely unnerving,
none more so than the sub-story involving mysterious bangs
on a wall and the revelation of a ceiling covered in...no,
I won't spoil that one.
there's a problem here with the episodic, non-linear structure
it's that it proves harder to engage with the characters
when you only stay with them for short periods of time and
have to piece together some of their details retrospectively.
It's for that very reason that Shimizu's later Reincarnation,
which shares several story elements with Ju-on 2,
proves a more involving film, despite the over-familiarity
of many of its component parts. But Ju-on 2
still has a great deal going for it and still scores well
enough on atmosphere and unsettling sequences
to make it worth the while of devoted horror fans and especially
fans of the original, which I would say is essential pre-viewing
before approaching this film, as a degree of plot and character
knowledge is assumed and not filled in for newcomers.
1.85:1, the picture quality is a little disappointing by
Premiere Asia's usually high standards. Not exactly pin-sharp
at times, with visible grain and a slightly earthy colour
scheme, it has that same low-budget look that has marked
several J-Horror films of this period (Kiyoshi Kurosawa's
excellent Pulse is a prime example). But
this is not consistent – elsewhere colours improve noticeably
and even detail is better in some scenes than others. Black
levels are, as a result, a little variable. How much of
this is down to the original print is hard to say.
are three tracks available here, Japanese Dolby surround
5.1 and DTS and English 5.1. The DTS is the loudest, but
both surround tracks are impressive and really add to the
experience – my second viewing was enhanced considerably
by knowing my neighbours were out and being able to really
crank up the volume. There are some very effective made-you-jump
bangs, some solid bass when appropriate and some excellent
use of the surrounds to place creepy noises behind your
head. The English language track, with its mixture of sometimes flatly
delivered and incongruous American and English voices, sounds
exactly like what it is, a post-production dub.
like a blast from the past nowadays but a welcome one is
a Commentary Track by our old
friend Bey Logan that was clearly recorded some time back
before his departure to US DVDs (he talks only speculatively
of a third Ju-on film). Logan is a huge fan of Shimizu
and the Ju-on movies and his enthusiasm is certainly infectious,
and as usual he provides plenty of detail on the participants
and the director. He does express a hope that if a third
film does appear (and it's in production) that it will take
a lighter turn at the end – personally I'm happy for Shimizu
to keep it as dark as he likes.
rest of the extra features are on disc 2 and are divided
up into four sections.
here you'll find three Trailers,
the Original Theatrical (1:30), the UK Theatrical
(1:19), which has a silly female horror voice narration,
and a UK Theatrical TV Spot (0:22), which is a
cut-down version of the same.
footage of The Japanese Premiere
(4:34) has the director and cast addressing the audience,
during which Shimizu mentions the (then) upcoming Hollywood
remake of the first film. Similar in style are the Taiwanese
Campaign (2:04) and the Korean
Campaign (2:32), in which Shimizu gets to
make that noise (if you know the film you'll know what I
mean) in front of a full audience and wind up his cast in
Kayako Onstage (2:15) has actress Takako Fuji
doing a performance as Kayako, but very different from the
one you see in the movie.
Re-Born – The Making of Ju-on: The Grudge 2
(19:37) is an EPK-style featurette, mixing behind-the-scenes
footage with interviews in which the actors spell out what
the film's all about. Of interest, but not essential.
interesting altogether is A New Nightmare –
Behind the Scenes on Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (23:55),
which details the shooting of three key sequences and is
sometimes fascinating for revealing just how low-tech the
of Horror: An Interview with director Shimizu Takashi
(17:17) has the director, who looks more like an extra from
a film about steelyard workers than the usual image of a
filmmaker (this aspect alone made me like him), talk about
the film, it's underlying theme of maternal love, and selecting
and working with the actors.
are four Deleted Scenes, three
of which – The Curse Continues (1:07), I'll
Be Right Back (1:43), and Hidden Depth (1:11)
extend existing sequences a little, while Pieces of
the Puzzle (4:25) has two of the main characters connecting
all the dots and in the process explaining things for the
audience. This sequence is mentioned in the commentary,
where Bey Logan provides the reasons for its removal.
of Horrors is not subdivided like the previous sections,
but a rather wanky extra in which you use the cursor to
move through stills of the house in order to find... oh,
try it and find out.
are a fair few out there who regard Ju-on: The Grudge
2 as superior to its predecessor, but I am not
one of them. It's still a very creepy, well structured film,
but one that for me re-treads some of the first movie's
ground and borrows more from other sources (there's even
a direct reference to Hideo Nakata's Ringu
at the end, the very same one used to promote the US remake
of The Grudge). But it's still very worth
your while, and if it catches you in the right mood could
still give you a damned good scare.
imperfections aside, this is a sound 2-disc set from Premiere
Asia, with great sound, a useful commentary and a couple
of very good extras on a decently specified second disc.