Japanese: Shibuya Kaidan 2 (Shibuya Ghost Story 2)
Romaji: Shibuya Kaidan 2
Japanese Title：渋谷 怪談 2
Release Date: 07th February 2004 (Japan)
Running Time: 71 mins.
Director: Kei Horie
Writer: Osamu Fukutani, Issei Shibata
Starring: Maki Horikita, Asami Mizukawa, Kenichi Matsuyama, Akane Kimura, Chisato Morishita, Tomohisa Yuge, Chiaki Ota,
I found the first instalment of the Shibuya Kaidan franchise to be hampered by a disappointingly generic story with wafer thin characters while the low-budget effects offered mixed results. The Locker 2 improves greatly on the first film.
Ayano (Horikita) has been given a terrible gift from Rieka (Mizukawa) – a key to a coin-locker. Ayano tracks down the coin-locker but decides that she should leave it be. Unfortunately some students at her school have heard of the urban legend surrounding a coin-locker in Shibuya which grants wishes. Their interest in the coin-locker will release the curse again.
Following directly on from the last movie the world of Shibuya Kaidan has already been established and so the sequel has a lot of material to work from including characters. There is also a greater examination of the origins of the curse and more twists on the coin-locker legends. As a result of this there is more time spent massaging scenes and details to create a solid story and even tone. The quality of the script has improved. Nothing evolutionary or wholly original but enough to make the plot tighter and believable, improve the flow of the action, and add details to the characters.
Like the first film there is a similar subversion of the wish-fulfilment legend which turns it into a curse but we see why people are suckered into getting cursed which adds a little nuance to the usual curse and destroy missions yurei set out on.
Much like Sadako’s video tape in Ringu, the mysterious coin-locker is an equal opportunities curse machine taking out random people silly and desperate enough to believe in the urban legends. In this case it is the legend of a wish granting coin-locker somewhere in Shibuya. I thought it was a neat twist on that legend as it offers a greater examination of the origins of the curse and themes of the value of love and alienation while creating a sharp origin story for the yurei which, by the way, is still funny to look at.
You see that doll in the poster in the first film? It is back and as silly as ever but the deaths it causes are much more varied and interesting.
Again we get a mixture of CGI, make-up, and physical effects and again the results are mixed. There are some great shocks such as the moments when a scary face will appear and tense scenes where characters will flee a yurei pursuing them (or disappear from reality completely) but in the worse scenes some of the actors are required to register fear and pain as an invisible force tortures them. Then we get a glimpse of the doll conducting the torture.
The sound design comes to the fore again. The filmmakers know that there is something unnerving about the cry of a baby (all vulnerability and selfishness) for adults and use it to create more hideous soundscapes to torment characters who are much more interesting this time around and given a chance to display a range of acting skills beyond sheer joy and terror.
Lead actress Horikita (One Missed Call Final) is empathetic as Ayano if a little waif-like. In a film about alienation and characters searching for love to anchor them down, she is a sympathetic lead. Largely quiet but capable of contrasting actions which are believable and not forced like in the first film.
Like the first film Ayano is still alone, abandoned by a father who does not care, but we get a greater insight into her life and see that she is the subject of bullying by her schoolmates. This has forced her to create a shroud cynicism protecting her from love and the draw of the wish-fulfilling coin-locker but she cannot totally shake an innocent need to fit in. This leads to a delicious moment when Ayano has to decide whether to warn her bullies about the cursed coin-locker or whether to avoid a confrontation. This struck me as one of those cruel moments that felt believable and made me find Ayano even more human.
Her friends Shiori (Akane Kimura) and Yosuke (Kenichi Matsuyama – Bright Future, Norwegian Wood) are also better written than the clique of young adults from the first film and thanks to the improved script. Their performances, to a certain extent, cover for some of the poor CG and plot-holes and help make the film worth watching even if it is nothing ground-breaking.
The Locker 2 is a real improvement over the last film. The plot, narrative, and characters are all more interesting and because of this the actors have solid ground to work from when creating their performances. For anybody who has grown tired of J-horror with its lank-haired yurei this will fail to impress but for people who cannot get enough of these ghosts then you might want to try this double set.