Ju-On: The Curse 2, like its predecessor, was an original video production and it carries on from where the first movie left off by following psychic medium Kyoko Suzuki (Yuuko Daike), a police investigation headed by Detective Kamio (Taro Suwa) and the haunted house’s new set of owners, the Kitada’s.
Ju-On: The Curse 2 has a much more linear structure with multiple narratives told sequentially. We start with the teacher from the first movie before following Kyoko and a new set of characters. It uses old footage from the first film used for about a quarter of the seventy-six minute running-time which may anger some but I felt it strengthened proceedings by providing a solid set-up and establishing the source of the haunting.
At first you would think there is nothing new to see. The film retreads the same ground but with slightly different variations and it uses all of the J-hora clichés what with the creepy shape with a livid eye and long hair glimpsed at the corner of your vision but Shimizu creates an enjoyably chilling film by exercising his imagination in urban terror proving once again that he is good at setting up supernatural surroundings.
The nature of the curse means that it can spread through to different areas as various victims carry it around before dying so regular urban spaces are made terrifying: pulling back a screen door can lead to a scene from hell, something might pop out from under your chair (both amusing and highly disconcerting). The prize goes to the dark corridors of a high rise and apartment 205 where Kyoko encounters the historic presence of a brutal crime only glimpsed in the first film but replayed in full. It is brilliantly edited so that the part of the room Kyoko inhabits is in colour but the crime is portrayed in grainy black and white and in the same shot.
Indeed Shimizu dabbles with CGI again but the film works best when it is the pallid Kayako and Toshio tormenting their victims with incidental details, simple yet creepy sounds or a full-on assault from original, inventive angles with the camerawork drawing the audience’s gaze into the right positions during sequences that showcase simple physical techniques.
The best sequence is kept for last as a victim is terrorised at school by… I won’t spoil it but even I was caught off-guard and I hit the rewind button as soon as the credits hit just to see it again and enjoy it.
Acting is strong. Sure, there is no Chiyaki Kuriyama in this sequel but all of the performances are once again brilliant especially considering this is an original video production.
Yuuko Daike as Kyoko gets more of a chance to flex her acting muscles and conveys terror brilliantly but it is as Kayako and Toshio who steal the show (even if their best bits are from the first film).
Shimizu delves once more into Shinto rituals by using the folklore that sake (rice wine) reacts by changing its flavour when it comes into contact with supernatural powers as seen in the first film. This time, because it is at the start, it leads to an amusing joke at the end.
With its conventional structure the sequel seems a much more focussed film. Even though it is a variation of the haunted house formula the film still holds a few surprises and some gloriously ghoulish sequences and they bring new life to these onryou. In fact I would say that of the two original video versions it has the scariest sequences and you can see the refinement of ideas and skill that would culminate in Shimizu’s next film and big screen debut, The Grudge.
Japanese: 呪怨 2
Romaji: Ju-On 2
Release Date: March 24th, 2000 (Japan)
Running time: 76 mins.
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Takako Fuji, Ryota Koyama, Yuuko Daike, Makoto Ashikawa, Tomohiro Kaku, Yurei Yanagi, Kahori Fujii, Mayuko Saito, Denden Taro Suwa.