“Ju-on: The Grudge” is a film that has mutated many times. Its short films and subsequent motion pictures make it a veritable horror epic in its native Japan, and the cast and crew seems very dedicated to continuing the trend. Regardless of what “Hollywood” side-effects may be present, there is still a powerhouse of Japanese filmmaking forming the blood, bone, and viscera of “The Grudge” stories. The Grudge 2 is an engaging and intelligent sequel that spins the events from the first film in a whole new, surprising direction while simultaneously using some of the best sequences that were lost in translation between the original film and its American sister.
Firstly, the opening title sequence is amazing and starts with the same narrative as the first (you know… the one with the red words? CURSE… DEATH…FURY), but it’s the initial scene that’s the real hook. The dialogue begins off camera; a camera oddly affixed on a pan of frying bacon. We hear a gruff male voice “your gonna burn em’; the woman at the pan shutters. What ensue are stoic accusations; of just what we don’t know (but if you watched the first film you’ll know the explanation) but the woman doesn’t seem phased at all. Finally, a crack about her cooking pushes her over the edge; she grabs the pan from the stove, empties a copious amount of blistering hot oil onto his unsuspecting head, finishing the job properly with one good frying pan whack to the face. She then proceeds to calmly sit down and eat the breakfast she’s just prepared.
The episode that follows should be immediately recognizable to anyone who has seen the Japanese “Ju-on”. Two high school girls are talking to an obviously unpopular girl, giving her poisonously veiled complements while maintaining a diabolical interest in her friendship. They plan on visiting a certain notorious house; a house with a bad reputation for killing people.
You fanboys are salivating already, admit it. Yes kids, it’s exactly as cool as it sounds. There is so much material here to go over that I hardly know where to start. Plotlines mentioned in the original that were cut for the remake are brought back from the dead (yeah, I made a lame pun, so?) and to amazing effect. Basically the film is broken down into three main stories:
1) Aubrey Davis (Karen’s sister)
2) International high school student Allison, which bleeds into...
3) a family who just moved to Chicago; a family with some most unfortunate neighbors.
All of these tales blend seamlessly into one another in a very eclectic way. As I said before, the story arch involving the three high school girls is buffed up quite a bit as well. Gracing each girl with there own death sequence gave more meat to the proceedings as did scenes involving their own personal experiences with the ghosts of the house. The story, in fact, becomes such an important component that it's one of the main things I took away from the movie. You see, the Saeki makes an unexpected move to our own shore which, through some dark serendipity, is directly caused by the fire that Karen started (giving an opportunity to use yet another aspect of the Japanese film that was omitted; the idea that simply being AROUND a person who had been to the house was enough to transfer the curse). There was ONE plotline I didn’t quite care for; which, oddly enough, is the most quintessentially “Japanese. Later in Aubrey’s tale she visits Kayako’s mother, a former exorcist (well, that’s the closest equivalent word; as the movie so lovingly points out there IS no word in English for what she does) who cured a host of diseases by ripping out “evil spirits” (that ghastly scene in the trailer with the finger and the mouth and… ewwww) and feeding them to her daughter Kayako. While I AM a fan of Japanese cultural folk lore I can see NO occult logic to this practice at all and the plot, as a whole, was not explanatory enough as to the rational behind Kayako’s rage. I felt as though it was jammed in for fear of losing its Japanese flavor (considering all the new, U.S. oriented material), which was blatantly unnecessary.
There is one last thing that I would like to tell you, but I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum (can you tell?) because I really think that if you liked the first film you should see this one. For anyone who has seen the original Japanese “Ju-on” you will LOVE how this film ends.
The DVD from Sony features four featurettes;
* East Meets West
* Grudge 2: Storyline Development
* "Ready When You Are, Mr. Shimizu"
* Holding a Grudge: Kayako & Toshio
As well as deleted scenes, "Tales from The Grudge" with intro from Sam Raimi, and more.
“The Grudge 2” is a horror sequel definantly worth seeing, and a sequel that, in many ways, far surpasses its initial installment. I’m even willing to say it’s better than the slightly formulaic and bubblegum “Ju-on: The Grudge 2”. The material is rich, unused compost from many stages of the grudge metamorphosis and I’m willing to bet that’s exactly why it’s such a jewel. If you thought that Kayako had run out of ways to scare you, you're wrong, and “The Grudge 2” is proof.