The Grudge 2 (2003)
By: Trist Jones on October 12, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1, Japanese DTS 5.1 English Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Noriko Sakai, Chiharu Nîyama, Kei Horie, Yui Ichikawa, Shingo Katsurayama
Screenplay: Takashi Shimizu
Music: Shiro Sato
Country: Japan
AKA: Ju-on: The Grudge 2
If you, like me, thought the original Ju-On/The Grudge was a pretty ordinary experience, you're going to want to steer well clear of the sequel. For some bizarre reason, most of the people I know who enjoyed the first, enjoyed the second even more, and I cannot for the life of me work out why. I've seen some terrible horror films in my time, truly terrible, usually in terms of production values – sometimes in terms of storytelling, but most of those went completely under the radar and currently reside in the realm of Straight-to-Video cheese. The Grudge 2 should have been better than this. It could have been better than this… but for some reason, in spite of how monstrously huge the first was in terms of success and cult favouritism, The Grudge 2 is a prime example of good ideas murdered by terrible execution and requires far more attention than it deserves.

The Grudge 2 is, as the numerical title would suggest, a direct follow on from the original film. This presents an immediate problem: if you have not seen the first film within twenty-four hours prior to viewing this film, you will be completely lost on pretty much every subtle reference and plot point that binds the two (it may be easy for the Japanese, but trying to remember who's who from the first and recognising names is a bit of a task when you're reading subtitles and have similar looking casts). Dubious racial ignorance aside (I truly am sorry, but the cast is genuinely very forgettable, and their screen time along with the story structure doesn't help), the film itself plays out in a similarly disjointed fashion to the first; a series of vignettes all tied to a core story and criss-crossing each other in a similar fashion to Jackie Brown (for those who haven't seen the first… but are for some reason reading a review of the second).

The core story follows Koyoko Harase, an actress dubbed the 'horror queen' largely because of a single film that most people seem to recognise her from and soon to be mother. After her partner hits and kills a cat on the road home one night, Koyoko sees the ghost boy from the first film, and from that point on, she seems to be a magnet to the malevolent force that haunted the first. Anyway, the ghost boy appears in the car and as you would expect, the car crashes, and we are led to believe that Koyoko has lost her child, and Koyoko goes into an expected bout of depression. After all – her boyfriend is in a coma and she's just been told she lost her baby. Anyway, this is not the case, and we learn soon after that she is still with child (although the spook boy presents us with the possibility that the baby may not be safe, or that something is tying the two). Anyway, eventually a film crew ropes her into appearing in a TV special about haunted houses, and lo and behold, she is dragged into the house where the horror began. Predictably, the crew get bumped off in "creepy" ways and for some reason, Koyoko is unknowingly the focal point for the activity. Things escalate as one would expect in ways one probably wouldn't right up until the film's bizarre climax.

Sounds like it could be pretty good, right? Sure. It could have been really good, if it weren't such an awfully made film. I mentioned earlier how terrible the production values of this film are, every time something supposedly scary happened, I found myself laughing or rolling my eyes – this was like Evil Dead 2, but at least Evil Dead 2 was meant to be comedic as well as horrific, so the terrible effects were often part of the gag. Not here my friends… the film fails miserably in selling the 'horror' of the moment, and when the moments involve things like crawling wigs and fully grown births, you can't help but laugh out loud. The horror is also destroyed by awful camera work that manages to kill pretty much every moment that could have been somewhat disturbing had they been timed and shot better. The other thing that doesn't help is the terrible acting, which is both accentuated by, and further accentuates just how terrible the camera work is. You know it's bad acting too, if you can pick out bad acting in a foreign language film.

These are big no-no's for a successful horror film. Usually you can get away with one or the other (most of the classics do) but all of them combined equals horror film suicide. The biggest problem with all of this is that the film actually has some pretty good ideas that could be genuinely disturbing, had they not been ruined by lazy film making. Most of the "scares" fall flat on their face and the ones that sort of work are more disturbing because of their bizarre nature than the actual horror of the moment. The birth sequence could have been truly horrifying, but in all honesty, once I was over the initial "What the Hell?!" of it all, I was in hysterics. The same goes for the majority of the "big" scares sprinkled through The Grudge 2.

The whole thing bugs me even more because I know that the director has already made this film once before (which would be interesting to see for the sake of comparison) on a lower budget, and is being paid by Sam Raimi to make it again for America. I suspect that it may be worth waiting for the American release; after all, third time's a charm…
Shitty camera work aside, the print isn't all that great either. Much like the first film, the DVD seems to have been sourced from whichever print was on hand at the time. It's not bad, but it's far from picture perfect. There are grainy patches here and there and the odd artefact every now and then, so it's watchable, but you know it can definitely be better. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 compatible.
It's a pretty standard audio track. Everything is clear enough, but the score is so terrible that you'll wish you could listen to something else. It doesn't exactly make use of the 5.1 surround set up, which is unfortunate because films like this usually have awesome sound scapes that really give the old speakers a work out, but for those who are fussy about it you do get the original Japanese sound track in 5.1 and DTS. No English audio either guys.
Extra Features
Eastern Eye give us a fairly mediocre set of extras that aren't really going to be of any interest to anyone outside of the fans of the film or possibly those studying film and film production techniques. You have a storyboard comparison, which looks at four key sequences in the film (including the hilarious "Evil Wig" sequence) but is ultimately pretty bland, and a 20 minute behind the scenes piece which is fairly similar in nature to the behind the scenes snippets included on the DVD of the first film. As usual, you also get trailers for the film and for other Eastern Eye releases.

If you're a stickler for extras, there is a two discer out in the UK that is choc-a-block full of extras, but the casual fan might just want to pick it up as part of the Eastern Eye Grudge boxed set (as it's inexplicably cheaper to buy the two films in the one set than it is to buy either of them individually).
The Verdict
I really didn't like this film. For some bizarre reason people like it more than the first one, and it's just something I can't grasp at all. To me, The Grudge 2 is a boring, lazy excuse for a horror film, and one that fails miserably to scare on every possible level. If you think you may be opposed to my way of seeing things, rent it first and see if I'm wrong, but if you had any thought that the first one was anything less than fantastic, you're not going to enjoy this at all.
Movie Score
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