aka Ju-On 2; The Grudge 2
Director/Screenplay – Takashi Shimizu, Producer – Taka Ichise, Photography – Tokusho Kikumura, Music – Shiro Sato, Visual Effects Supervisor – Hajime Matsumoto, Production Design – Toshiharu Tokiwa. Production Company – Oz Productions/Aozora Investments/Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co/Nikkatsu Corporation
Noriko Sakai (Kyoko Harase), Chiharu Niiyama (Tomoko Miura), Shingo Katsurayama (Keisuke Ookumi), Yui Ichikawa (Chiharu), Yuya Ozeki (Toshio Saeki), Takako Fuji (Kayako Saeki)
A film crew go to the house that was reputedly haunted by the mysterious boy Toshio and his mother Kayako to film a tv special that conducts an investigation into the haunting. All who take part in the filming, from presenter Tomoko Miura to horror actress Kyoko Harase, the director Keisuke, the wardrobe girl Megumi and a teenage extra Chiharu, are then haunted by the ghostly boy and the unearthly woman.
Director Takashi Shimizu is responsible for the Ju-on/Grudge series of films. Shimizu has a relationship with the Ju-on material that could be considered to verge on the obsessive compulsive. In the same way that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers are driven to return and wash their hands, check that power points are turned off and the like over and over, Takashi Shimizu likewise seems obsessively driven to keep coming back and making the same film. Shimizu has so far made eight versions of Ju-on/The Grudge – the initially video-released Ju-on (2000) and its sequel Ju-on 2 (2000); the bigger-budgeted theatrical version Ju-on: The Grudge (2003), which proved highly successful internationally; this sequel to the theatrical Japanese version; the English-language American remake The Grudge (2004) and its sequel The Grudge 2 (2006); a videogame; and contributed the story by two versions by other directors with Ju-on: Girl in Black (2009) and Ju-on: Old Lady in White (2009); and for several years been promising a third Japanese-language version. There was also a further American sequel The Grudge 3 (2009) and a subsequent Japanese reboot film with Ju-on: The Beginning of the End (2014), which produced a sequel with Ju-on: The Final Curse (2015), followed by Sadako vs Kayako (2016), a crossover with the Ring series.
The problem with Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on/Grudge films is that after watching a few of them – this was the third one that I had seen – they all start to seem the same. Shimizu gives us more spooky appearances of the boy – in the rear-view mirror of a car, under a steering wheel, his handprints on the windscreen and so on – but these are just a variant on what we have seen before. There is also the same confusing non-linear plot that cuts and changes between the various characters. This would appear to connect together in Takashi Shimizu’s head but on screen I must admit to finding his plots frustrating and hard to follow. With Ju-on: The Grudge 2, Shimizu has borrowed a trick from Wes Craven in films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and Scream 3 (2000) and added a layer of meta-fiction in now having the film be about a haunting that takes place on the set of a sensationalistic tv series that is recreating the original incident.
While Ju-on: The Grudge 2 has a repetitive frustration and is hard to follow, you cannot deny that Takashi Shimizu still manages to deliver the spooky goods. There are some eerie and unearthly scenes where a costume woman is pursued by a wig that crawls across the floor and then turns into a bloodied woman with long hair; where the ghost woman creeps up out of a hole in the floor and crawls across to where another woman sleeps to almost touch her fallen hand; mysterious images appearing out of a photocopier; a scene where the actress sits down to eat lunch on the stoop of the haunted house and the ghostly woman and boy nonchalantly sit at a table in the background that was previously empty. The two most unearthly images are the one where people puzzle over the bangings against the wall that are coming from a neighbouring apartment and Takashi Shimizu pulls back to the other side of the wall to reveal that the banging is the ghost boy swinging the body of a hanging woman against the wall; and the image of the ghost woman clinging to the ceiling where her hair covers the entire roof and then reaches down to strangle a victim below.