NOVEMBER 20, 2008
(Note, this review was written on the 21st, after a 2nd viewing)
I’ve always been an advocate for watching movies in order; there’s nothing worse than seeing a lousy remake first and spoiling the original’s effectiveness, or seeing a sequel with revelations that don’t resonate as much as they would had I already seen the first film. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that’s been so utterly incomprehensible as Ju-On 2 was to me, having not seen the first one, even though I thought I did. See, I thought I had seen “the original” Ju-On, but I had forgotten that that movie was itself a remake, of a movie from 2000. Had I paid attention to the year of release, I would have realized that and watched the 2000 one first and saved myself a heap of time, not to mention probably a lot of head-scratching for the readers. So, to sum up, I was watching the sequel to a film I had seen two remakes of, but not the original that all of its storylines was following.
And to top it off, seeing the original today didn’t help much, because even that one didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. But coherency has never been the strong suit of any entry in this convoluted franchise, so that wasn’t really a surprise. However, at least now I have a better grasp on the material, so my review won’t be too ignorant. Hate to make anyone mad.
I think my biggest problem with this subgenre is that I am first and foremost a story/character guy. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy splatter movies or Friday the 13th sequels, but those aren’t really even TRYING to scare me. These movies, however, are designed to scare an audience, and I simply can’t get scared when I don’t know who the people are or even what exactly is going on. I mean, sure, there are some nice visuals and the odd creepy image here and there, but at the end of the day, there is precious little of my time spent feeling any sort of suspense or caring whether or not the characters survive.
And the Ju-On films in particular suffer from this feeling, because they are borderline anthology movies, which by design almost never have really well-rounded characters and deliberately plotted stories. Every 10-15 min, someone dies, and then a new character is introduced. They all have some ties to the house (they lived there, they used to live there, they are the real estate folks trying to sell it, they walked by it... any excuse seems to enrage the ghost(s) that live there), but otherwise the stories have no real connection. Characters are mentioned, but they never interact with the ones from the other stories (usually because they are dead). This presents another problem – a lot of them have very similar names (hey-o, ignorant American excuses coming in!), like Kayako and Kyoko, and the names are often said when those characters aren’t present. People will say “Do you know Kayako?”, but when Kayako is actually in the scene, no one says “Hey, Kayako!” So it becomes hard to match faces to names.
Another language problem – the subtitles are pretty good, even repeating things over and over when it’s no longer necessary (such as when a guy is looking for Toshio, the cat-sounding little boy, and says his name about twenty times in a row), but they often skip translating written things. So we’ll have a scene where a guy is stunned to learn something from a file or a piece of mail, and the subs don’t explain what he is reading.
I also take issue with any film that begins with the final half hour of the previous film. A flashback is one thing, and even helpful when you have something this baffling, but the flashback/recycled footage segment is almost as long as the new footage segment! Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is nothing compared to this. And since they came out in the same year, it’s a wonder why they didn’t just combine the two films into one for Stateside release.
Anyway, since the films (and in turn, my reviews) are so intertwined, head on over to the Ju-On review (the 2000 version) for more thoughts. My final word on this one though? It’s more like Ju-On 1.5 rather than a sequel, but if you dig these movies, I’m sure there’s plenty to enjoy (the ending is actually pretty creepy, even if, again, it makes no sense without context of the other movies).
What say you?