Ju-On 2 (2000)
Starring Noriko Sakai, Chiharu Niyama, Kei Horie, Yui Ichikawa, Shingo Katsurayama
Directed by Takashi Simizu
Takashi Shimizu returns to direct the sequel to his heralded theatrical release, Ju-On, and spares no artistic expense to shock us once again. This time the plot revolves around Kyoko (Noriko Sakai), a pregnant actress who, thanks to the choice of roles in her films, is known as the "Queen of Horror" (no, it's not Karen Black or Barbara Steele). From her, the curse of the grudge spreads like a bad case of herpes, infecting her fiance, her hair stylist, her director...even a lowly extra in her TV show. If that's not equal opportunity haunting, I don't know what is.
The ghosts seem to avoid killing off the main character, which is uncharacteristic of the franchise, but you get the impression it might have something to do with the fact that she has a bun in the oven...or the steamer, as it were. But being pregnant, plagued by horrible visions and having a fiance in a coma aren't going to pay the bills, so Kyoko agrees to do a TV spot that takes her to the infamous haunted bungalow of the first film. The ghastly tag team of the alabaster little boy (Yuya Uzeki) and moaning, yawning mother (Takako Fuji) return to their old ways (and some new ones) as they tear through the cast, one by one. Incidentally, aside from director Shimizu and producer Ichise, these are the only two people to be involved in the two straight-to-video releases, the two theatrical, and the U.S. remake. I guess they're not afraid of being type cast.
This film is to the first movie as Cannonball Run 2 is to Cannonball Run. It would seem they too, followed the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" methodology in making this film, and thankfully, it worked out just as well for them, grossing almost twice as much as the first.
While exploring the theme of motherhood, appropriate considering the relationship between the two ghosts, the film serves up it's usual array of scares where you least expect them. There is a particularly terrifying scene where the ghosts throw down a premonitory haunting on a hapless TV hostess and her husband. Thump, thump, thump...goes the hanging cadaver. Like the original movie, we learn quickly that there really is nowhere that is a "safe zone" from these spooks, with the creators going so far as to put a ghost right under the steering wheel of a car...between the drivers legs! Boo!
Part of what is so appealing about the film, and the franchise itself, is how very easy it is to watch. By following the story in nearly separate vignettes, the pacing essentially works itself out nicely, and caters to us low attention span having troglodytes. While the viewer is assured to see some form of ghostly mutilation at the end of each set piece, the impact is strangely undiminished. Perhaps playing on the fact that most viewers are trained to expect at least one survivor to any horror film carnage, the complete eradication of the entire cast still proves deliciously unsettling. While not completely devoid of J-horror cliche, or good old fashioned camp (watch for the attack of the killer wig scene), this film still manages to creep inside your head, and ultimately, entertain.
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