I don't understand it, but it looks creepy. —
Japanese horror, or J-horror as it's known, is a squirrely
beast. There's no denying that it's prodced some of the moodiest,
creepiest and scariest films made. However, compared to American
horror, J-horror seems to care less about plot and "making sense"
than about being moody and scary. Unlike most American horror,
which tends to be concerned about teens who still know what
Elm Street destination you screamed at last summer on Friday
the 13th, the "why" something is happening in Japanese horror
is not nearly as important as the "what."
Like a cinematic California roll, The Grudge 2 takes
elements of both cultures' scary movies and makes a blend that
Grudge, the American remake of Ju-On,
got around this culture difference because the ghost had a pretty
simple motivation — it died angry and it's still angry.
This freed director Takashi Shimizu to focus on what made the
Japanese original so effective, filling it with a thick atmosphere
that grips you by the throat.
The Grudge 2 picks up where The Grudge left off,
with Aubrey Davis (Amber "Joan of Arcadia" Tamblyn) going
to Tokyo to bring home her hospitalized sister, Karen (Sarah
Michelle "Where's Willow when you need her?" Gellar), the first
movie's heroine. Like the original Grudge, the sequel
interweaves two other stories with this main plot. First, we
have the saga of three Japanese International High School girls:
a nerd, Allison (Arielle "Aquamarine"
Kebbel), and her two less-than-kind "friends" Miyuki and Vanessa.
The second story follows a Chicago family, Trish (Jennifer "Flashdance"
Beals) and her boyfriend Bill and his kids. How these three
stories are connected is one of the driving mysteries of the
movie. Each of the three storylines really works on its own
but, as in the original, we get subtle clues as to which events
happened in what order, each clue setting the stage for the
As in the first movie, Shimizu takes his time with each scene,
moving slowly enough to fill the movie with genuine tension
— sometimes almost too slowly. But The Grudge 2
is creepy, and it gives more scares than the first one. Some
bits are similar, like the ghost sliding up under the covers
of a bed, but these are given enough of a twist that they can
still surprise you. Shimizu is very, very effective at setting
up tense scenes where you just know that the ghost is behind
the door or under something; but unlike horror flicks where
this trope is annoying ("Just open the damned door already!"),
he makes it genuinely suspenseful. You don't want the character
to open the door or look under the thing. The film's excellent
score also really helps make these scenes work.
Screenwriter Stephen Susco gives us characters we can care
about, giving the movie real stakes. But even with these solid
characters, the movie is far more concerned with mood and visuals
than plot. And this creepy, oppressive tone, starting with the
opening scene, never lets up. It maintains a constant level
of "off-ness" and tension that never really resolves, even after
I also have to give actress Takako Fuji credit for her portrayal
of the ghost Kayako. She makes her character scary; and
her background as a contortionist lets her make Kayako move
in some very unnatural-looking ways. She has easily surpassed
Ring's Samara as the scariest ghost to come from Japan.
The Grudge 2 is a rare beast, a sequel that is moody
and effective, maintaining the tone and feel of the original
while breaking new ground. It's scary, creepy, and will satisfy
fans of American and J-horror alike.