Starring: Noriko Sakai
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Rating: Five of Ten Stars
Famous horror actress Kyoko Harase (Sakai), her unborn child, a TV news-magazine crew, a couple of high schoolers, and a handful of random bystanders fall victim to the curse of angry, homicidal ghosts.
"Ju-on: The Grudge 2" is one creepy movie. From beginning to end, it's got an unsettling air about it, and the ghost attacks are all nightmarish and flawlessly executed.
What is not so flawlessly executed is the script. It's no problem that the story is told out of sequence, but about 2/3rds of the way through the movie, the timeline completely disintergrates. Until the two high-schoolers are introduced (who I assume must have been around in the first Japanse "The Grudge" to which this film is a sequel), all the pieces fit on a timeline that makes sense--Kyoko and the filmcrew are cursed when they viisit the house for a TV segment, and the ghosts then start picking them off, just as they did in the American versions of the tale. But, the teeny-boppers must have been cursed by the house BEFORE the filmcrew went there... although one of them appears to never have escaped it, yet she's walking around and....
The bit with the school girls makes no sense when viewed on the timeline of the film, or as a seperate event. It further causes the question to arise: How and why Kyoko was targeted by the ghosts in the first place? What exactly was the whole baby and birth thing about, particuarly when viewed in the context of the ending? And why WERE those school girls in the film? Is there a law that every Japanese horror film must include at least one girl in a school uniform?
Either the plot is so tangled that it trips over itself (bad writing) or Simizu is assuming that everyone in the audience has seen the first film in the series and he further intends to explain the tangle in a third movie (bad filmmaking), or I'm not as smart as I like to think I am (not possible). Whatever the reason, this movie is a masterful excersize in makiing the viewers feel freaked out, but a failure as an excersize in story-telling. The posives and negatives here end up placing this film on the very low end of average.
I also think this will be the last entry in "The Grudge" series that I'll be sampling. The best thing about these movies appears to be their marketing campaigns.
(That said... the birth scene and its aftermath is one that will stay with me for awhile....)