Juon 2

Original title
Juon 2
Japanese title
  • 呪怨2
Alternative title
  • The Grudge 2
Running time
92 minutes
14 July 2003
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From low-budget straight-to-video quickie to Hollywood hot property, the rapid rise of the Juon series is one of the more remarkable success stories in Japanese cinema of recent years. Starting its overseas reputation as a buzz among a handful of western film critics with their collective finger on the pulse of Japanese genre cinema, it quickly spread after one such writer proclaimed it, in no lesser forum than America's well-respected Film Comment magazine, to be one of the most frightening movies ever made.

Sequels followed in rapid succession, with this fourth instalment (and second theatrical outing) arriving less than three years after the original. And, well, not much has changed in those three years. The little smurf-skinned Toshio and his mum are still on the prowl, haunting their family home and driving any hapless visitor into insanity and death. This time, it's a TV crew that has invited a disillusioned schlock horror actress to present a staged report on the supposed bad vibes in the deserted Saeki homestead. Although she is supposed to fake the reception of signals from the netherworld, Kyoko the actress starts sensing something is seriously awry before she has even crossed the doorstep. The creepy sounds from the attic and the black stains on the floorboards are only an omen of what is to come as, in trusted haunted house fashion, the members of the TV crew are visited one by one by the vengeful ghosts of Toshio and his mother Kayako.

Juon 2 is, relatively speaking, the most strongly plotted entry in the series. Shimizu avoids falling into an entirely episodic storyline by intermingling the main plot with a subplot about a young girl making her debut as an extra on the set of Kyoko's new film. The director mixes scenes from this horror film within a horror film with his core plotline, achieving some good scares and effective fake shocks with his cross-dimensional leaps. The film's atmosphere is effectively creepy throughout, resulting in some very effective moments. Unfortunately though, Shimizu regularly forgets about atmosphere and wanders too far into the grotesque or the downright silly in an attempt to deliver the goods. Notwithstanding J-horror's long-standing facination with strands of hair, a crawling hairpiece is more likely to induce sniggers than scares.

With their delicate balance between formula, craftsmanship, and brief running times, Takashi Shimizu could have probably kept churning out the Juons well into the next decade, if not until his retirement. However, after two made-for-video films, two theatrical features, a Hollywood remake, and that remake's sequel, it came as a welcome, if overdue, decision on Shimizu's part to finally move onto less well-trodden paths with the stunning Marebito / The Stranger from Afar.