JU-ON: THE GRUDGE 2 tops the prequel in many ways but in the end is bogged down from being the hit it should be by bad editing and confusing pacing.
A whole series of people die or have gone missing from a house filled with a strange atmosphere in a suburb in Tokyo.
Actress, Harase Kyoko, having recently appeared in a string of horror films is stereotyped as “the horror queen” and invited by a TV show to visit the haunted house.
In the attic, she finds the secret of a deadly curse from a blood-stained diary and awakens the angry spirit of the house. Soon after, the director, presenter, stylist, cameraman and sound man of the crew go missing or die one by one during the post-production period. Only Kyoko does not get “infected” by the curse. However, she loses her fiancé in a traffic accident, and undergoes a miscarriage. But now, with a sensation of something still moving within her, what is she pregnant with?
JU-ON 2 is very hit-and-miss, as has been the whole series basically.
To this day, director Takashi Shimizu has still not been able to recreate the tense atmosphere and dread found in the very first TV movie JU-ON: THE CURSE.
Repetition seems to be this franchises downfall and I’d like to place the blame solely on the director but alas, I am being too harsh.
Having watched all the JU-ON movies, the scare tactics become predictable and well, just not scary (mostly directed towards JU-ON: THE GRUDGE).
Here the director has seemed to get further off-track from how excellent this franchise could be but also seems to have improved upon a lot of the key factors which made the previous instalments (not the original) so lacklustre.
At first glance the story seems to be one of JU-ON: THE GRUDGE 2’s most promising features, and you’d be right, it is VERY promising BUT the bad editing and scene switches between past and present make the story muddled and very confusing to follow.
Fortunately the ending is much better than the previous JU-ON movie and you are giving something to ponder on that actually seems coherent, unlike the prequels “WTF?...” ending.
JU-ON 2’s connection with the previous film seems pretty shallow, which can work against it but also in its favour depending on whether you’ve seen the prequel.
Those who have seen the prequel may have wanted this to have more in common with the first, like for example, the first feature film’s ending to carry over to this and actually make sense or to get some explanation as to what the heck was going on (I realise the ending meant the curse continues in a loop but that ending was wack!), plus that Megumi Okina was pretty cute.
Fortunately those who haven’t seen the first feature film may be pleasantly surprised… VERY pleasantly surprised. JU-ON 2 is an excellent stand-alone from the series and newcomers who want fresh scares that aren’t too clichéd are best to avoid the first film and watch this instead, it isn’t as shallow as the first movie.
The story segments are probably what let this down the most.
Trying to improve upon one of JU-ON: THE GRUDGE’s high points, the time transcending scenes, the director has gone way over board by taking that element and injecting it with a huge dose of speed.
While at times the switch between past, present and future is very clever (Tomoka’s story segment comes to mind) towards the end of the film it becomes very over used and incoherent to the storyline, making things muddled and confusing as to what time setting the characters are actually in at any given moment.
That’s what makes the story very confusing, and to make matters worse 2 of the characters are haunted before they even set foot in the house, either the director became confuse as to what time zone the story was in or he didn’t want to waste time building up the scares at the expense of coherency.
All that aside, the movie is very entertaining.
The acting is pretty mixed, Noriko Sakai as Harase ‘the horror queen’ Kyoko lacks the on screen charisma as Megumi Okina. Despite the directors attempts at making Kyoko a multi-layered character she just comes off as a 1 dimensional cut-out which is a shame.
The rest of the characters play their parts very well with the small exception of Yui Ichikawa who has some trouble playing Chiharu as she is haunted all through her time transcending scenes. Who could blame her though; moving from one timeline to the next and back again makes it very confusing for the actors to portray the correct emotions for the scene.
The ghosts on the other hand, Toshio is just not scary, would you be afraid of a little blue naked boy wearing eyeliner? I know I wouldn’t.
Kyoko is the ghost that delivers the majority of scares and with good reason, she can be really scary when she doesn’t look like a Chihuahua stuck under a long black wig (you’ll see the scene I mean, it’s hilarious).
Thankfully the director has gone back to the original TV movie’s visual style and gives us a much grittier and moody atmosphere thanks to the lower visual quality.
The audio remains mostly the same except the croaking isn’t used as much. I would have loved the creepy piano tune at the title screen to be used more but it wouldn’t have improved the film significantly so I guess there’s no point.
All negativity aside, JU-ON 2 is not a film for those who didn’t like the previous film, if you want to be converted, the original TV movie is your best bet.
Those who are interested in the JU-ON franchise, don’t be discouraged by the lower score because this film is great for first timers.
And finally, those who enjoyed the first movie, I think you’ll find this more than a worthy addition to your library, it’s a shame I didn’t like it though.
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