Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Grudge 2’ (2006)

Just reading the blurb on the back of this films dvd gives you an idea of how lazy the storyline is and yet it somehow managed to limp on for a further sequel by way of  ’The Grudge 3‘! On hearing that Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has been hospitalised following her failed attempt to burn the house down at the end of the first movie, her mother sends her other daughter Aubrey to Tokyo to bring her sister, who she hasn’t been talking to, back home. Aubrey then learns her sisters horrifying story and how the curse of the grudge has been unleashed. Very vague and lame indeed as is sadly usually the case with horror movies follow-ups in particular.

Whilst I felt Sarah Michelle Gellar was under-used in the first film (see that review here) she is only in this one as a cameo part (just over five minutes in total) designed to bring some connection to the two films. Or maybe she didn’t really want her name associated with such a production which is why she doesn’t stay alive for long in the movie!

The Grudge 2 focuses on her sister but doesn’t give her too much to do. As the film has three separate stories there just isn’t enough focus on Aubrey’s storyline. Instead we also get a couple of other subplots and with the story constantly flicking between them it is difficult to get attached to any of the characters and to have any or much sympathy with them when they inevitably end up being affected by the curse of the grudge.

Of course its not a complete lame duck and I actually didn’t mind some of the scenes with Aubrey and the journalist Eason as well as the story centring on the three International High School students who go to the grudge house (no lock on the gate or the house but just some tape preventing entry!) but the Chicago apartment building storyline seemed  isolated in the scheme of things and was ultimately more distracting than involving.

There are some chilling moments here and there but if you’ve seen the first one then its nothing original. However, if you haven’t seen the original one then you’re unlikely to be watching this second one anyway! Eason tells Aubrey all about the curse and says “I was hoping you can tell me something I don’t already know but you can’t” which is quite apt given that this film doesn’t really make too much ground on the mystery of the grudge and how it can be stopped.

We learned in the 2004 American original about the Japanese belief that a curse is left behind when someone dies in a powerful grip of rage. It leaves a stain in that exact place  lasting forever which is a little ironic given that this particular horror franchise, having rush-released this sequel on the back of a successful weekend at the box office for the original, did exactly that in the cinema’s showing it!

 

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10

Click on the following links for the filming locations of each film:

The Grudge (2004)     Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2006) 

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Tokyo Filming Locations Pt XI: Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2006)

Of course this site focuses mainly on the locations of foreign productions but from time time we go off track whether it be soaps, dramas or even books. This time I hunted down a couple of pivotal locations from Japanese language film ‘Ju-on: The Grudge 2‘ as I had a long break in Hibarigaoka a couple of months ago so I went one stop (by express train on the Seibu Ikebukuro line) to Tokorozawa in Saitama.

Usually I document the locations in chronological order but this time its probably best to do them in the order of finding them so first up is the bridge which features in the films dramatic final chapter on 82 mins. This was really easy to find despite there being very little on the internet (in English) about its whereabouts. If you take the west exit and go down the steps you will see a Koban (Police box) and Seiyu department store to your right so go down that road following the tracks for about five minutes. There is one crossing before the out of sight bridge so you will have to turn left before hanging right after only about 10 metres. Go down that road until you hit the bridge. Its address is 16-11 and it really couldn’t be any easier.

                   

Now for the trickier location which has mystified many. Head down the road with the steps directly behind you (and the two tall apartment blocks in the distance in front of you) and you will soon come to a small car park area (below left). Turn left and go through it sticking close to the left side and you will see a very narrow alley (below right) which you go down and round a couple of corners and then you will see it. 

I couldn’t get an address for the house but it is in block 14 which if you don’t know anything about how Japanese addresses work will mean nothing to you! I should thank a blogger called Rachel as, even though she didn’t give directions on her site, she did show enough pictures for me to go on and find this house which is part of Japanese horror film history. It first appears after 8 mins and again on 34 and 64 mins.

         

The great thing about both locations is that they are in a quiet area and so with few people around you can (if you want!) take the kind of photos I did without too much embarrassment. I have a tripod which is recommended if you want to actually take a peek over the tall white fence as I did below left. The photo next to that is of the back of the house.

 

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Grudge’ (2004)

With Halloween on the horizon I thought it would be topical to review a horror movie. ‘The Grudge’ is actually a re-make of ‘Ju-on’ but unlike most re-makes it is done by the same director Takashi Shimizu albeit with an American cast. Now I’ve never seen the all-Japanese original so I sadly can’t compare the two but I’ve heard that this 2004 version isn’t half as scary. I’ve gotta say that, apart from a couple of brief moments, I didn’t suffer too many chills down my spine during its 98 minutes duration.

This film stars Sarah Michelle Gellar (of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fame) who plays an American nurse called Karen working in Tokyo. A series of mysterious deaths occur at a house in Aoyama which sadly (for a locations buff like me anyway!) can’t be visited as it was just built on a soundstage at Toho Studios. She then encounters the supernatural spirit which possess the victims, claim their souls and pass on the curse to some other poor b*stard! To be honest its pretty hard to give too much of a sh*t about deaths of people you don’t ever really get to have much, if any affection for and that includes Gellar who is given a surprising lack of screen time given what I said a moment ago about her being the star.

 

‘The Grudge’ shows a series of vaguely connected events in a non-linear narrative and contains all the usual horror film trademarks such as black cats, shadows, creepy noises, creeking doors, slamming doors, lifts, attics, haunting music, mirror reflections, scary sound effects, books which turn pages automatically and it is for this reason that I was a bit disappointed with the film as it just doesn’t bring anything new to the horror genre. Having said that, my expectations before watching it were low so in one sense I didn’t actually mind it! Furthermore, as beautiful as Japanese girls are, they sure do make scary villains which I guess must have something to do with their long black hair.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time this last year trying to work out some of the locations of this movie for there is very little information on the internet regarding exact sets. The places I have successfully identified include the University which Karen and Doug attend and the restaurant where the latter works. The University is in Takaido (on the Inokashira line which runs between Kichijoji and Shibuya) and is actually a medical college. The restaurant is called Fungo Dining and can be found in Nishi Shinjuku and is where a scared Karen turns up leading to Doug asking his boss if he could go home early. Exciting stuff! Far more interesting is the building where a guy tops himself in the movies opening moments and I was most surprised to learn that this took place by Yanagibashi bridge where the Kanda and Sumida rivers meet; a place I was at back in April when I cycled the length of the river in one day.

 

I have a strong interest in films set in Japan (hence the title of these reviews!) but if it wasn’t for this fact I don’t think I’d be too fussed about the film. There must have been some interest there though as it spawned two sequels with the first one also taking place in Tokyo which I will no doubt review one day!