Director: Takashi Shimizu
Writer: Takashi Shimizu
Producer: Takashige Ichise, Kazuo Kato, Masaaki Takashima
Stars: Yuko Daike, Makoto Ashikawa, Mayuko Saito, Kaori Fujii, Yurei Yanagi, Duncan, Tomohiro Kaku, Taro Suwa, Reita Serizawa, Denden, Takako Fuji, Ryota Koyama
Six intertwining vignettes continue the story of violent murders that curse anyone who becomes involved with the victims.
“Ju-On: The Curse 2” released direct-to-video just one month after “Ju-On: The Curse” (review here) debuted in early 2000. Assuming Japanese TV executives did not see the first movie in advance and commission a sequel before it aired, this means “Ju-On: The Curse 2” either rushed into production within a ridiculously short window, or it was planned to be a two-part project from the get go.
Or, those would be the possibilities if “Ju-On: The Curse 2” was produced like a traditional sequel. Suspicion says what seemingly happened is that “Curse 1” and “Curse 2” were created as one single movie. Someone then tore a page from Charles Band’s playbook and sliced the project into two pieces, padding out each to a 70-ish minute runtime and voila, two sort of feature-length movies for the price of one.
The first clue that this is what went down can be seen from outer space. “Ju-On: The Curse 2” runs only 72 minutes without credits and its first 29 are the last 29 from “Ju-On: The Curse.” That’s right. If you’ve seen “Ju-On: The Curse,” then you’ve already seen almost half of “Ju-On: The Curse 2.”
Like its predecessor, “Ju-On: The Curse 2” is an anthology of six tales intersecting at a cursed house involving pale ghost boy Toshio and his stringy-haired ghost mother Kayako. First segment “Kayako” is frame for frame identical to the same-named penultimate chapter of the first film. “Kyoko” is nearly an exact copy of its namesake from “Ju-On: The Curse” too, except it slips in an additional minute partway through and then keeps going past the point where it stopped the first time around.
“Tatsuya” comprises the core of new content for this “sequel.” “Tatsuya” is a 20-minute tale of the real estate agent in charge of selling the haunted home and how the curse affects everyone in his family including psychic sister Kyoko, son Nobuyuki, even his parents.
“Tatsuya” takes “Ju-On: The Curse 2” to roughly the one-hour mark, leaving just 12 minutes to rush through the other three chapters. Does that raise another eyebrow with respect to a strange division of runtime between the six shorts?
It isn’t just the drastic drop in duration unbalancing the back half of the segments. Their purpose in the overall plot is also subject to some scrutiny.
“Kamio” is an unnecessary aside featuring three detectives investigating the mysterious deaths and disappearances connected to the curse. These are the same cops seen for three minutes in the first film, with their inclusion here feeling just as random and being just as forgettable. It won’t be weird if you don’t care what happens to them. Their relationship to the storyline is so tangential, it would only be weird if you did.
Now “Nobuyuki” on the other hand, feels right at home where it is. By this point in the story’s chronological timeline, the curse has consumed no less than five full families as well as several individuals. The final moments of “Nobuyuki” culminate with a creep factor off the scales of anything previously registered in either film. The suggestion of where the curse could be headed next is unsettling and alarmingly fatalistic.
Unfortunately, “Ju-On: The Curse 2” doesn’t have the smart sense to stop while it is ahead on a high note. “Saori” is already odd for being a one-minute chapter consisting of a single exterior shot of the cursed house. Two girls trespassing are then heard via voiceover spitting out sake before Kayako croaks and Toshio meows. What’s worse is that inserted as a misplaced epilogue, “Saori” reverses momentum by narrowing the horror back to the house when “Nobuyuki” established that the juon is effectively out of control.
“Kamio” and “Saori” are superfluous, perhaps filmed and added after the fact to make sure there was enough material for two movies. Original content from “Curse 1” and “Curse 2” combine for 110 minutes, fine enough for one feature. Take out these two shorts and you’re down to an ideal length of 100 minutes. Maybe this is how “Ju-On: The Curse 1/2" should have been. Maybe that’s how it was once intended?
My chief complaint with “Ju-On: The Curse” was that every segment ended identically, with a gape-mouthed ghost terrifying a protagonist. With the exception of “Saori,” which doesn’t feature anyone onscreen at all, each chapter of “Ju-On: The Curse 2” includes someone, in some cases more than one person, falling to the floor in fright. Shunsuke and Takeo do it in the first segment. Kyoko does it in the second. Tatsuya and his father do it in the third. A detective’s wife does it in the fourth, and Nobuyuki does it in the fifth.
Director Takashi Shimizu demonstrates knowing no other way to depict someone in terror unless his/her tailbone is touching the floor while scooting backward. A limitation like this is an awful one to have as a horror filmmaker. Couple that with virtually every scare in the previous installment ending on a growling ghost and one wonders how the “Ju-On” franchise achieved such longevity when it has such a dearth of ideas.
Whatever you thought of the first “Ju-On: The Curse,” you’re likely to feel the same about the second. Mainly because they function as a singular entity. I’m inclined to rank the sequel slightly lower than “Ju-On: The Curse,” partly out of principle for barely offering enough fresh footage to qualify as a new movie, and partly because its overall effectiveness is dulled by more of the same repeated beats of boos and backward collapses. But it hardly seems fair to grade the two separately since I’m reasonably certain they were the same film to begin with. Maybe I should split the rating in half and award a portion to each. It looks like that’s what they did to the fans at any rate.
Review Score: 65
Ju-On: The Grudge Review