Having made the mistake of seeing The Grudge in the theater (the mistake being that I had to listen to people slurping, smacking, chatting and yelling stupid things at the screen), I savored The UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT of Grudge 2 the way I now prefer to watch most movies--at home, on the couch with my two cats and dog. And, being a huge horror genre nut, I viewed G2 like I do most scary movies--alone, during the day, while my husband, who is, shall we say, less of a horror fan, is out toiling away for "the man."
Unlike, say, Saw III, which I made the mistake of sitting through recently, G2 does not pick up immediately where it left off. Instead, it interweaves three separate storylines set in two different period and locations, which could have been confusing but, in the hands of Director Takashi Shimizu, somehow wasn't.
Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy" fame is back to reprise her role of Karen Davis, and this time Amber Tamblyn (the star of television's "Joan of Arcadia") plays her sister, Aubrey. Other familiar faces include Jennifer Beals (one of the stars of Showtime's "The L Word") as Trish, Joanna Cassidy (who I will never forget from "Six Feet Under" r.i.p.) as Mrs. Davis, and Eve Gordon (or Mrs. Porter from "Felicity") as Principal Dale.
With Shimizu again at the helm, Takako Fuji reprises her role of uber-scary dead woman walking Kayako Saeki, and this time her sidekick is newcomer Ohga Tanaka as Toshio Saeki, or the boy who wouldn't die. These two put that creepy girl with the hair in her face from The Ring franchise to shame.
The cast also includes Edison Chen, who plays reporter Eason, and Misako Uno, who is actually a newcomer to both East and West film and plays Miyuki. The cast is rounded out by Arielle Kebbel, Teresa Palmer, Sarah Roemer, Matthew Knight, Christopher Cousins, Paul Jarrett, Jenna Dewan (whose role will make you never look at milk the same way again), Shaun Sipos, and Ryo Ishibashi.
Exploring issues such as jealousy / envy and anger / hatred, G2 explains just enough to leave me wanting more. And while the spirits in G2 are most definitely evil, I can't help but feel sorry for them--the deaths they suffered and the limbo they now seem to be stuck in.
G2, presented in widescreen, has it all--from creepy special effects, to strange lighting and tricks of the eye, every little nuance is caught on film for viewing pleasure.
Director Shimizu has managed to make what, under normal circumstances, would be mundane noises, like a cat screech and a creaky noise, some of the scariest sounds to date. G2's excellent sound quality is not for the faint of heart.
The Special Features include G2's Executive Producer Sam Raimi giving an intro to three short films, each directed by Toby Wilkins; a Cast and Crew Reel Change Montage put together by Shimizu (his way of honoring everyone who had a part in the film); and three Featurettes.
"Holding a Grudge: Kayako and Toshio" explains the Director's casting choices, and how he handled issues such as how to make a cute boy scary. "East Meets West" explains the differences between J-horror and American horror, and how East and West were able to learn from each other to create G2, as well as addresses how the cast was able to work with a non-English-speaking director, and other notable differences in working on an Eastern set. In "The Grudge 2 Storyline Development" the insiders explain how the new storyline was created, as well as what everyone brought to the table in the many, many meetings that were had to create the script. Lastly, "Ready When You Are, Mr. Shimizu" shows how Shimizu's directing prowess has evolved from The Grudge, as well as gives viewers a peek at his playful side.
There are also a handful of deleted scenes, an alternate ending and an epilogue worth checking out, as they pave the way for what I can only hope is G3.
What I love about this movie (and franchise) is that it leaves much to the imagination. While a lot of horror movies are implausable, the Grudge franchise focuses on the spiritual. For me, it's easier to believe in ghosts and angry spirits, than to believe that people have the resources to do the evil things they do in movies like Saw. For those who prefer a horror movie that hits them over the head with gore and violence, stay tuned for Saw 20, which will most likely be out next year, as the franchise seems to crank them out within weeks. But for those who like to have something left to the imagination, let's hope the Grudge franchise lives a long, long time.
Juliet Farmer, aka writnkitten