"Ju-On: The curse of one who dies in the grip of powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places that person was alive. Those who encounter it die and a new curse is born."
Takashi Shimizu returns once again with the sequel to his first Theatrical installment of the successful Ju-On Series, Ju-On: The Grudge 2. What started as a curious V-Cinema hit has quickly turned into a hot Hollywood property only four years after the original Ju-On was released. While some scenes from the V-Cinema releases were recycled in Ju-On: The Grudge, this direct sequel caught my interest with a much stronger, more cohesive plot and most of the action taking place outside of the house. That's right, I said OUTSIDE of the house!
Where as Ju-On: The Grudge continued from the video releases with some of the same characters, this one takes things in a whole new direction. Kyoko (Noriko Sakai), a B-Movie Actress, is driving with her husband one night when they get into an accident, which leaves him in a coma. We soon learn that she recently wrapped up a shoot where a TV production crew wanted her to present a fake report on the supposedly haunted house. Even though the events are scripted, Kyoko senses something wrong before even stepping foot in the home. Strange sounds from the attic and a mysteriously spreading stain on the floor are only the beginnings of a larger evil that the TV crew have inflicted on themselves, and it's only a matter of time before each are visited by Toshio and his vengeful mother.
Ju-On: The Grudge 2 is, in my opinion, the strongest entry in the whole series. Shimizu is able to easily traverse the film's timeline without falling into an episodic storyline by introducing a subplot about a young girl, Chiharu (Yui Ichikawa), on the set of Kyoko's new film. By incorporating scenes of this film within a film with the main story, Shimizu is able to handle the nonlinear aspect of the narrative quite well. Characters often times see their deaths, but cannot understand what they are seeing or how prevent it.
Most Japanese horror movies are based on a "Onryou", or a "Ghost Story", if you will and the Ju-On series will DEFINITLEY scare you. Ju-On: The Grudge 2 is a very atmospheric film that knows how to play with an audience's expectations. The film seems to be composed mainly of wide shots, with pools of light and darkness in each frame. Something always seems poised to come out of the shadows, so it's even more terrifying when something does.
Well, even though not much of the plot has changed since the debut of the Original Ju-On, as a stand alone chapter, Ju-On: The Grudge 2 holds it's own within the genre and is just as visceral and possibly even more terrifying than the earlier entries. One's enjoyment of the film isn't contingent on having seen the earlier chapters, but much like the Ju-On virus itself, once you encounter these films, your desire to see them will spread.
The DVD: Bear Entertainment – Ju-On: The Grudge 2 - Korean Special Edition 2-Disc Set [REGION 3/NTSC]
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The film transfer is very good and the picture is quite clear even during scenes tend to be darker or more shadowed.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS Digital Surround and 2 CH Stereo in Japanese with optional English, Korean or Japanese subtitles. I don't speak Japanese, but the sound effects and soundtrack were very eerie and effective. The translation was well done and the subtitles are easy to read without being distracting.
Extras: The Extras are included on the second disc and include the Theatrical Trailer/TV Spots, a series of Cast Interviews, 2 "Making Of…" Documentaries, some Deleted Scenes and a Photo Gallery. These Extras are not subtitled, but most can still be enjoyed regardless.
Conclusion: Ju-On: The Grudge 2 is a tremendous follow-up from the previous film. By taking the curse out of the housebound setting, Shimizu is able to give us some new horrors that the original couldn't offer. Often hitting just the right balance between formula and craftsmanship, this entry cannot be beat for pure entertainment. Takashi Shimizu is currently directing, with Sam Raimi Executive Producing, the English Language version of Ju-On: The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Bill Pullman. Depending on the success of this version of the series, maybe we could see an English language version of Ju-On: The Grudge 2, which isn't just a superior sequel, but is another testament to the quality and innovation of the current state of Japanese horror.