My J-Horror reputation precedes me and it is all thanks to my first viewing of Takashi Shimizu's original film JU-ON THE GRUDGE (although not his first work with this story as he also directed 2 made for TV movies in his home country of Japan). Upon my perusal of this film I began to consume Asian Horror at an alarming rate and after awhile overloaded on the genre and had to take a break. But I still find time to support my favorite Japanese director Shimizu and was there for the midnight showing of THE GRUDGE 2, the sequel to his 2004 American directorial debut THE GRUDGE.
I cannot deny that I have seen other reviews (some blatantly sent to me in some lame attempt to get me down) and for the most part, they are not at all flattering. What I enjoy about Shimizu is what others find annoying. So while I can see the points made against this film, I am still at a loss as to what made this movie SO freakin' horrible that it deserves the flack it's getting. And I'm sure there are plenty of people ready to tell me just why it was so freakin' horrible...but until then let me stretch my old reviewing sea legs so to speak and comment on what worked in THE GRUDGE 2.
For starters, I simply adore the use of prior film footage to tell a story in a new movie. I am not talking about the standard flashback to the prior film, I'm talking footage -NOT- in THE GRUDGE that found it's way into it's sequel. I would be referring to to the opening scene that reveals the reason that SHIMIZU's cursed house is in fact so cursed by showing the original family that inhabited it and Kayago and Toshio's violent deaths. This footage is from (if I'm not mistaken) the original Ju-On The Curse made for TV movie and isn't the first "shout-out" to those that have been following the Ju-On legacy.
Secondly, Shimizu mines his old films for some excellent scares but also leaves those that are familiar with his work just as uneasy by adding some new elements to the ways in which Toshio and Kayago get their fright on. Seeing the SAME old man that played peek-a-boo with Toshio in Ju-On The Grudge do it all over again is a great shout-out; while adding new ways for the ghosts to materialize (like photographs) keeps the old-heads guessing. There are some extemely decent edgy moments, with no incidental music--although that is present at times too and only adds to the scream factor--and just pure uneasiness.
(((at this point in my writing I have started seeing things out of the corner of my eye in the mirror I had set up next to me. I was watching LOST on my computer prior to starting this blog and doing my make-up at the same time hence the mirror. I am trying very hard to press on, so I've removed the mirror back to its original spot and have lit up a cigarette.)))
In an effort to fill out the story and I'm sure to allow for sequels (a inevitable Hollywood evil), Shimizu fills out his ghost story with some new elements, some of which I do not agree with but am able to look past. And while I figured out the end into the middle of the film and then found myself a tiny bit bored, I am standing by my thoughts on this film: Frightening in a simple yet pleasing image and deep-seeded in its Japanese horror film roots. In short, I regret nothing! People either seem to love or hate this genre and I am proud to say I am supporter.
SAVE A CAT - STRANGLE HARVEY KEITEL - and a few other films...
1-HELL (thailand)This was my only PHILLY FILM FEST viewing, but it was pretty damn worth it. Within the first 5 minutes all the major characters are killed off and send to (yep! You guessed it!) Hell. The visuals in this film are stunning. Witness the deepest pits of sin and despair, and the lovely punishments that await you for such things as alcoholism, adultery, and lying. The story becomes more of a struggle for the characters to find their way out of their fate, and the realization of their actions; but the journey along the way is quite a masterpiece.
2-TWO EVIL EYES directed by GEORGE ROMERO and DARIO ARGENTO. This film takes 2 masters of horror and lets them "go off" so to speak on EDGAR ALLEN POE tales. It turns out the ARGENTO had planned a horror anthology series with more than just ROMERO; he wanted to adapt POE's stories of horror with the likes of WES CRAVEN and STEPHEN KING as well. When CRAVEN and KING didn't contribute, ROMERO and ARGENTO produced this 2-part film. ROMERO's half is first, and not that impressive in story. He does "THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MR. VALDEMAR," and while I did jump a couple times the story really just didn't take me anywhere. ARGENTO's offering is far more satisfying; THE BLACK CAT is a more faithful story and pretty darn interesting with HARVEY KEITEL playing ROD USHER (there are other POE references within this part of the film as well); a man with a penchant for crime photography and cat strangulation. I really recommend this movie to horror and E.A. POE fans.
3-2001 MANIACS--this is a modern take on HG LEWIS' classic 2001 MANIACS!, a masterpiece in cannibalism and country-bumpkin horror. This remake may have had a bigger budget, but its story leaves something to be desired. The redeeming parts of this film are quite redeeming indeed: GIUSEPPE ANDREWS and ROBERT ENGLUND give great performances, and the references to LEWIS' original film actually make this movie watchable. If you haven't seen the 1st film then you will probably run away screaming, but having the knowledge of the first film is all you need to have a hoot and a holler with 2001 MANIACS. THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN BITCHES! (and I've now added GIUSEPPE ANDREWS to my long list of secret boyfriends)
4-DEMONS (Ital. horror)--like DEMONS 2, but in a movie theater. Demons make me sick.
5-DOOR INTO DARKNESS--Dario ARGENTO murder-mystery. DARIO hosted this 2-part film. I love Dario's hair. The point is the story, the 2nd one was good, the 1st one I fell asleep on. I dig on ARGENTO's thrillers just as much as his horror. He tells a good story. Nuff said.
6-CHOPPING MALL (originally titled KILLBOTS). This is the classic 80's horror flick. Robots, thought to make a mall MORE protected, end up killing a lot of horny teenagers. Pretty damn funny--good movie to play "spot the 80's cliches" to, and notice the couple from EATING RAOUL at the beginning of the film.
~Till Next Time Kittlings....
(((Pictures - #1 - KAYAGO from THE GRUDGE, #2 HARVEY KEITEL with a snappy beret, #3 Cutie GIUSEPPE ANDREWS, #4 DARIO ARGENTO with an awesome 'do)))