THE GRUDGE 2
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, Taka Ichise
Written by Stephen Susco
Director of Photograpy Katsumi Yanagijima
Music by Christopher Young and Jeff Betancourt
Cast: Amber Tamblyn, Edison Chen, Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Roemer, Sarah Michelle Gellar
2006/108 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA & Japan/NTSC Region 1
Review from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD
THE GRUDGE 2 is the sequel to a remake which was an expansion of a made-for-TV movie, but it's not a remake of the Japanese sequel to the original film, which was called JU-ON 2. I'm fairly certain that I can see the end of the universe from here.
THE GRUDGE 2 picks up not long after the conclusion of THE GRUDGE. Having attempted to burn downed the house where the curse lives, American Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is hospitalized and under police security. Her sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn), arrives from America to help Karen. But, before Aubrey can learn much, Karen dies. Aubrey is approached by a journalist named Eason (Edison Chen), who has been investigating the mysterious deaths surrounding the house, and offers to assist Aubrey in her search for answers. At the same time, three schoolgirls, Allison (Arielle Kebbel), Vanessa (Teresa Palmer), and Miyuki (Misako Uno), enter the house and soon find themselves being stalked by a supernatural presence.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Trish (Jennifer Beals) moves in with her boyfriend Bill (Christopher Cousins) and his two kids, Lacey (Sarah Roemer) and Jake (Matthew Knight). Not long after, Jake notices the neighbors escorting a hooded figure into their apartment. Later, Jake begins to hear strange pounding noise from next door. Soon, everyone around Jake starts acting strange and the bodies start to pile up.
Takashi Shimizu's JU-ON 2 is one of my favorite Asian films, and for my money, the scariest movie of the new millennium. Going into THE GRUDGE 2, I knew very little about the movie (it came and went so quickly at the theaters that I didn't really hear much about it), but judging by the clips that I'd seen, I had a feeling that the filmmakers behind the movie had decided to go in a different direction -- which they did. Thus, THE GRUDGE 2 differs from JU-ON 2 in two major ways; 1. The story is completely different, and 2. It's a pretty bland movie.
I don't want to get on my soapbox here, but its seems unavoidable. I can't imagine why Shimizu, Raimi and company opted to not use the plot of JU-ON 2. The idea of a reality show crew investigating the house and thus becoming cursed is a simple one which leads to many possibilities. According to the extras on THE GRUDGE 2 DVD, Shimizu stated that he wouldn't make THE GRUDGE 2 is it used the same story at JU-ON 2, as he wanted to do something different. Well, that's his prerogative, of course, but the convoluted story in THE GRUDGE 2 left me longing for the actresses and camera crew from JU-ON 2.
The combination of three storylines in THE GRUDGE 2 certainly reflects the storytelling style which Shimizu has used in his prior outings, and it even incorporates his love for overlapping different places in time. The problem here is that the three stories, even when they intertwine feel like three totally separate stories, not three parts of one whole film. What’s worse is that none of the tales feel very original or interesting. (Of course, after six JU-ON/THE GRUDGE outings, how original can things be?) The Aubrey/Eason story feels a lot like the original version of THE RING, as they travel cross-country trying to solve a supernatural mystery. The storyline with the schoolgirls would have been at home in any of the previous JU-ON outings, and I felt that I had seen it before. And the parts of the film set in Chicago...well, this honestly felt like someone had changed the channel to a different film. As this plotline progresses, we begin to see THE GRUDGE-like events happening, but it never feels connected to the rest of the film. This was probably intentional, as the audience is made to wonder how the hauntings are occurring halfway around the world, but by the time this was revealed, I was beyond caring.
If these comments make THE GRUDGE 2 sound unfocused, then I’ve gotten my point across. This movie never really decides what it’s about. It’s not really about the house. It’s not really about Kakayo and Toshio. It’s not really about Aubrey being a stranger in a foreign land. The movie is simply a series of short vignettes, all of which want to contribute to the same cause, but ultimately add up to little. And the ambiguous ending is just the icing on the confusing cake.
The sad thing about THE GRUDGE 2 is that Shimizu has not lost his eye for creepy and disturbing visuals. One of the trademarks of the JU-ON series is that Kakayo and Toshio can materialize anywhere and astute viewers will see them in the corners of many shots. Shimizu is able to use that here to make for some creepy visuals and a couple of good jumps. But, there are two things missing here. We only get a few moments of the creepy Kakayo crab-walk thing which has always left an impression in the other films. And, the movie doesn’t have the same sense of dread which hung over the previous entries in this cycle. We simply have the feeling that anyone could die at anytime, but I never found myself really caring.
It would be too easy to say that THE GRUDGE 2 is the watered-down doppelganger of a Japanese classic. More precisely, it’s a muddled film which borders on being a mess. A new entry in the JU-ON cycle should be a welcome addition, not a chore to sit though. The movie offers some creepy visuals and at least one creative death, but the murky story left me wanting much more.
THE GRUDGE 2 creeps onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is quite sharp and clear. There is some very minor grain on-screen at times, but it won’t distract most viewers. The transfer shows no defects from the source material. Colors are well-balanced and the blacks are rich and true. I noted some mild video noise at times, but overall a strong transfer. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track simply kicks ass. The subwoofer action is nearly constant and gives the movie a much needed oomph. The dialogue is clear and audible and the track shows no hissing or distortion. The surround sound effects are very good, and the familiar “throat” sound circles the room.
It should be noted that THE GRUDGE 2 has come to DVD in two separate versions, one is the PG-13 theatrical cut and the other is an unrated director’s cut. For this review, the director’s cut was viewed. I haven’t seen the PG-13 cut, so I can’t comment on any additions, but I can say that the director’s cut is some 10 minutes longer than the PG-13 cut. The movie didn’t have any notable gore, so the new scenes are probably character development.
The THE GRUDGE 2 DVD carries several extras. “Tales from The Grudge” are Three short films from director Toby Wilkins, which are presented 1.85:1, but not 16 x 9. They are broken into three chapters: Part 1 (3 mins), Part 2 (2 mins) and Part 3 (3 mins).
Following a brief introduction by Sam Raimi, we see the three shorts stories with linked characters which show people further effected by the curse. For 8 minutes of video, not bad. Certainly has the feel of THE GRUDGE films, but in small doses. “Cast & Crew Reel Change Montage” (8 mins.) crafted by Shimizu, shows multiple crew members holding slate for roll changes. Shimizu's way to honor crew. “Holding a Grudge: Kayako & Toshio” (10 mins) Shimizu, Takako Fuji, and other cast & crew discuss Kayako character -- her origin, her look, what it's like to work with her. Same goes for Toshio character, Shimizu describes where the idea came from and talks about why a new actor was brought in for this film. “East Meets West” (15 mins) cast and crew discuss the difference between US and Asian films. They analyze how the content differs, touching on the supernatural and spiritual content in Asian films. “The Grudge 2: Storyline Development” (11 mins.) It was decided that THE GRUDGE 2 would be made before THE GRUDGE was released. Touches on the storytelling differences between Eastern and Western camps, and how it was decided that the story of JU-ON 2 was too similar to many other movies. Whatever. “Ready When You Are, Mr. Shimizu” (13 mins.) Overview of Shimizu's involvement and his work on the film. Deleted Scenes -- x 5 Most hum-drum stuff, but a dream sequence and a deleted epilogue show off some gross ideas.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©