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Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003)
7th Jul 06
Kayako and Toshio are up to their old tricks again by scaring anyone that comes in their house to death. Also contains long black hairy scary ghosts and Japanese schoolgirls.
The film opens with actress Harase Kyoko being driven home one night by her fiancée, Masahi. They’re discussing her movie career, which is troubling her as she’s recently done a run of horror movies and is now fed up with being labelled ‘the horror queen’. Her husband is supportive though, points out that at least she has work and is known, not like a lot of other actresses out there. And besides, what about the pregnancy? And then they chat some more, about the kind of stuff you chat about when you’re driving home late with your pregnant partner.
And then it starts all over again. The whirling point-of-view shots, the Dutch camera angles which focus on the background, the God damned freaky music, and then he’s back again, that spooky little white faced ghost kid from Ju-On. First he’s sat down by the peddles, then he’s in the mirror, then somewhere else, and then the camera pans back and we watch the car career off the road. The resulting crash leaves Masahi in a coma and Harase loses the baby.
This of course is just the first of many stories in Ju-On 2. Like its predecessor, this movie consists of half a dozen or so stories, each telling the tale of a particular character’s connection with that normal everyday looking house that Toshio and Kayako haunt, and usually ending with their eventual demise. And writer/director Shimizu Takashi chose to edit these stories together out of sequence once again, so like last time we have to pay attention for clues as to whether this story happened before the last or after, or at the same time, which was cleverly done by showing two ends of the same telephone conversation at one point.
But he doesn’t stop their, sometimes he even plays with the timeline in the same story. The next tale after Harase’s intro is Tomoka’s, a journalist for a local news channel. She’s up one night going over her script for a job coming up when at precisely 12:27am she hears this thumping sound on her apartment wall. Problem is it’s an outer wall in a tower block. She tells her boyfriend Noritake and he agrees to come over and sure enough the next night it happens again. Anyway, next morning it is the big day. Tomoka is a doing a special on a supposedly haunted house down town, and getting the current ‘queen of horror’ in to do an interview with. She joins up with the crew, heads down to the house and they do the shoot, and despite a problem with the sound at some point, the day is uneventful to the point where the director is actually a little disappointed that it wasn’t a little spookier.
Then it starts again. Noritake’s headed to Tomoka’s apartment to wait for her and, well, she’s not there but you can probably guess who is. When Tomoka does get home she, well, I can’t really spoil it for you but suffice is to say those banging sound are explained away and it’s a pretty decent scare moment. Then it’s on to the next story.
The make-up girl, the director, the sound guy; Ju-On 2 now has it’s pick of characters to kill off in loosely connected quick quarter-hour scare-you-to-death stories, and that’s exactly what it does. Being the meat and potatoes of this genre I can safely report to you that, if you can cope with the inevitable slow pacing that ghost stories roll along at, the scares are pretty good, a little better I’d say than in the first movie. Kayako still croaks like a sick toad, but now her body movements are much more punctuated and freakishly jerky, which is actually much scarier. Plus, she tends to be a bit more blood soaked than before (more blood in the sequel? Get away…) which works a little better too. The deaths also are more inventive; the ceiling hair scene is a freaky one, there’s the predictable use of CCTV to get a decent jump, and I’ve never seen a ghost try to manifest itself out of a photocopier before.
There’s also a good old fashioned scare-the-schoolgirls sequence (those crazy Japanese) and a sub-plot involving the cops bringing in the guy who originally handled the Kayako case all those years ago, but the major story of the film is that of Harase. She tends to skip in and out of other character’s stories, often connecting their timelines in the process, while also having her own. Hers tells of the aftermath of the accident. Her fiancé is in a coma and she’s initially told that she has lost her baby, but on her next check up the doctor tells her that the baby is fine. Is it fine? Why does it feel so odd? And why does she keep seeing that little white faced kid everywhere?
It’s decent stuff, slow but creepy with interesting characters and inventive endings, including one with a black killer wig that had the preview audience in stitches which I hope was the point. And they even have time to do a little movie-within-a-movie stuff, which we at eatmybrains.com have always digged since watching Return to Horror High a couple of years ago.
Sadly I do have a little bad news for you. The ending is pretty awful. It all starts with the schoolgirl sequence, which is even more confusing timescale wise than the previous story, and really disorientates. Then it’s straight on to the farcical hospital bed ending, the equally bizarre epilogue, and then it’s time to shout “What?” at the screen really loudly. Yeah, one of those moments. In fact, I can sum it up for you; Ju-On 2 is a little than Ju-On for the first 70 minutes and then it goes down hill fast. On average, that means there’s really not much in it between the two. So there you go.
Versions Available on DVD in October in the UK, after a three year delay.