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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Grudge 2 (2006)
(2020 Reissue)


Starring: Sarah Michael Geller, Amber Tamblyn, Jennifer Beals, Edison Chen and Sarah Roemer
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £9.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 02 November 2020

The Japanese horror form is unique to that culture and its heritage. Given rules of the form can be off-putting or intriguing, depending on the flexibility of the viewer. Does it wrap the viewer in doubts and paranoia regarding a reality taken for granted or does it seem too contrived to be engrossing? The Grudge is part of the Ju-On franchise, Ju-On meaning “Curse-Grudge” in Japanese. Translation requires exactitude and is never absolutely equitable. And then there are those white Noh wraiths who keep popping up from behind the furniture or crawling down secret ducts, coming to get you. Scary the first dozen times then after that just boring.

Problems arise immediately when a language coding system (Noam Chomsky) collides with forms from other cultures, equation is never possible. In order to understand, especially the mythopoeic, you have to work out what the other culture is saying. (George Steiner in his classic on translation After Babel). Applied to Japanese horror, this can result in thinking something isn’t frightening or even troubling, just odd. Aficionados of the form take it on its own terms and enjoy its thrill of nightmarish nectar as the best horror flavour of all. Such is Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead) producing The Grudge and Grudge 2 with Ju-On horror master Takashi Shimizu directing. Shimizu directed every single Ju-On film in the series, including the Japanese originals until The Grudge 3 on which he remained as producer. The franchise consists of Ju-On: The Curse; Ju-On: The Curse 2; The Grudge 3: Don’t Eat the Bat, The Grudge 4: We Told You Not To Eat The Bat, and The Grudge 5: Oh Shit, He Won Re-Election. President Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News that there was a very powerful curse on Wuhan’s wet market. For Western ears the word “curse” was used but on the Pacific Rim the understanding was Ju-On.

Ju-On films can open with big boxoffice and collapse just as big. It’s an acquired taste. Aubrey Davis (Tamblyn) learns her sister, Karen (Geller) has been hospitalized in Tokyo. Aubrey drops everything, flies there to help but shockingly fails. Karen has told her a fatal supernatural curse has been unleashed and is spreading. Karen is also being held under suspicion of arsine-murder in which her boyfriend was roasted. Plus an intense journalist who’s been covering the Ju-On story for four years tells Aubrey, Karen is being consumed by a dark force. Let me say, Geller gets the 2020 Marian Crane award for her work in this movie.

Simultaneously, an American girl at an international school elsewhere in Tokyo, is trying with little success to be accepted by a clique of top girls. If she wants to be accepted, she’s told, she needs to enter a mysterious burned out house. So being the conformist she is, she goes into the burned hulk.

From there we hopscotch to America into a parallel story, seemingly unrelated, but not really, because this curse is international and cross-cultural Woooooooo-oooooo! It’s Halloween so I’m giving you Halloween sound effects. Jake is a troubled boy living with his dad who remarried soon after his mom’s death. There is also an equally alienated neighbour in Jake’s apartment building which is of the architectural design known as American Shitty. This curse is making bad things happen to people all over the world. Symmetry. It must be fate. What’s even more scary is the curse’s arbitrary nature. Other people walk along through their bummer lives and don’t know what they’re missing.

Okay. This is like a sack of marbles. When it’s dumped, non-linearity is assured. Heavy, huh?

This form of ghost/curse story is centuries old and is peculiar to Japan and Asia. Ju-On ghosts aren’t bound by our time space continuum. They can hop out at us anywhere because they are denizens of a parallel universe. Bodies pile up, especially lead characters and if I say anymore I will be cursed with spoiler 101.

Cinematography, mise en scene and direction is hauntingly superb. For a picture like this it has to be. Shimizu is a master of casting a spell. Also shock. We are introduced to Trish and Bill (Jennifer Beals and Christopher Cousins) a seemingly well adjusted couple. She’s frying sausages for her hubby. She brings over the skillet and pours the bubbling contents onto his head. While Bill is distracted by this warm show of affection, she blats him in the skull with the skillet. Chaotic construction notwithstanding, this particular scene (and others) are resolved at the film’s climax.


John Huff

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