Considering the enormous international success of writer-director Takashi Shimizu’s original 2003 Ju-on: The Grudge, it was perhaps inevitable that he would make a sequel. It was less inevitable that he’d also take on the American remakes of those films, but take them on he did. Here, for the moment, we have his original Japanese sequel, which he churned out that same fateful year.

Not to be confused with his earlier Ju-on and Ju-on 2 creations, this sequel follows on from the hit cinema release. The awful events that had occurred at the ‘haunted house’, creating the malevolent grudge or curse that follows and terrorises those that enter it, are now established. We know at least in part what this film is about and, unfortunately, this inescapably steals some of its power to disturb.

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The original Grudge stuck to its simple format of setting up unnerving scene after unnerving scene, unrelentingly wearing you down whilst winding you up. No change of plan here as Shimizu moves from one deliberately dowdily staged set piece to another. He also employs the same non-linear narrative structure, following, in chapters, different but related characters as they are persecuted by the grudge. They have all come together in the house to film a television programme on the building's horrific past, inviting a well-known horror queen actress along for star value.

Unfortunately, the trick of using a little boy painted all white peering at you and a mascara’d, long-haired girl crawling towards you has been done before. By the same man, in his extremely similar preceding film. It just doesn’t have near enough the same capacity to turn you cold in a nanosecond as it used to, despite the guttural moaning. Shimizu tries to make up for this by working in some more inventive twists on introducing his ghostly squad, but to little avail.

Shimizu's creeping camera work and searing and sonorous soundtrack do get to work on you and he is still able to build up the tension with skill, but the very patchy, regularly unbelievable performances soon dispel that, as does the sometimes unconvincing bloody make-up. And trying to terrify you with nothing more than a wig knocks any serious attempt at the frighteners out the window.

The film-crew-picked-off plot also seems a bit too self-knowing and contrived. There is no Scream-like cheek meeting tongue, but the irony of having a scream queen actress (played by a real life scream queen actress) is too forced to maintain the credibility that decent scares rely on.

In fairness to Shimizu, he has updated the nature of his malevolent force. So rather than it representing an erosion of traditional Japanese culture by encroaching Westernism as before, there is more of a thematic focus on the family unit and the mother-daughter relationship under attack from modern thinking and changing attitudes. Still doesn’t make it a particularly good J-horror, though.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2006
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The Grudge 2 packshot
The chain of J-horror continues. Shimizu's original sequel is out to own on double-disc DVD just in time for his US remake.
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Director: Takashi Shimizu

Writer: Takashi Shimizu

Starring: Noriko Sakai, Chiharu Niyami, Kei Horie, Yui Ichikawa, Shingo Katsurayama, Takako Fuji, Yuya Ozeki

Year: 2003

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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