Perhaps one of the greatest horror films to creep out of Japan, Ju-on: the Grudge beckoned such a fluent following that an American remake is due out later this year. Prior to embarking on the Hollywood besmirching of his original masterpiece, director Takashi Shimizu released a sequel to the Grudge in 2003. Receiving high praise from many internet sites and dealers, the Grudge 2 was high on my list of "to watch" films.
Although the film takes a different approach than its predecessor, the opening sequence insists that the scare factor still remains the same, as a couple is terrorized by our powder white friend Toshio while driving down a deserted road. Kyoko, the passenger of the vehicle is an actress, who coincidentally just finished filming a piece on the infamous house where the Grudge murders took place. Both Kyoko and her soon to be husband somehow survive the attack and wind up in the hospital where she learns that she has lost the child that she'd been carrying. However, after a run in with Toshio in the hospital ER, Kyoko miraculously becomes impregnated through divine intervention.
Structured very similarly to the Grudge, part 2 jumps sequences from character to character, as we see each of the persons related to the house's documentary tormented by Toshio and Kayako. If you found the initial Grudge's sequences a bit confusing, part 2 does nothing to clarify the timeline. The addition of more victims makes the storyline seem convoluted and scrambled, often leaving the audience shrugging their shoulders, waiting for further explanation. The story of the Grudge 2 remains the same as the original, as the house specters claim souls that somehow come in contact with the establishment. But for what reason? There is never a solid explanation in either film as to why the ghosts of Toshio and Kayako terrorize their visitors, only the implication or deduction by the viewer that they seek revenge for what the husband did in the first film.
As in many horror sequels, the villains of the film receive way too much exposure, and affect that nullifies the fear factor of the film after seeing the same death sequence repeated 10 or 12 times. It seems that the Grudge 2 plays out like a "Groundhog Day" movie where the victims' faces change, but the situation remains the same. The sequel lacks the depth and plot development that the original had, focusing more on the amount of killing the ghastly duo engage in, rather than the personal element of how the victims are affected by the happenings.
The saving grace for the Grudge 2 from a "Total Shit" rating was that the film is shot extremely well, using an excellent mix of light and dark throughout. The scare points in the film are shot from unusual angles, often voyeuristic and never from the "standard" third person view. There is much more screen time for the ever-creepy Kayako, who moves less fluid in this film, almost as if she was broken at every limb. Shimizu uses a great deal of stop photography and speed editing to chronicle the movements of Kayako, while Toshio seems to be born from the shadows of every creeping corner.
If you do purchase either the Korean R3 version of the Grudge 2 or the R0 version, odds are it will be the Special Edition 2 disc with one of the discs devoted to special features. Contained on the non-feature discs are a ton of goodies to investigate for the hardcore Grudge fan, such as deleted scenes from the second installment, interviews with Shimizu and cast, a making of featurette, photo galleries, TV and theatrical trailers and an exorcism extra featuring a shit load of Toshio (creepy little bastard).
Unfortunately, the Grudge 2 seemed to be a bit rushed in its release, and did not provide enough substance to make it a solid feature. Granted, there is a great deal to appreciate visually, but the storyline is bland and the film sequencing is more ridiculous than the first installment. It's a good film to get if you enjoy watching Toshio and Kayako raise hell, but as far as explanation goes, there is none, and the viewer is left in the dark regarding the origins of the Grudge yet again.