In preparation for the American version of The Grudge 2, I decided to watch the original sequel to Juon, which was itself a remake of a TV movie. In total, I think there are at least six versions of these movies, all directed by the same director and all pretty much the same. To its credit, the latest American remake looks pretty different than the Japanese version, so maybe that iteration will change things up a bit.
Juon 2, however, is pretty much a perfect-to-form sequel to Juon. The director, Takashi Shimizu, has making this movie down to a science; it almost seems as if each scene can be described by an equation with slightly different variables. All the neat things from the first film return in the sequel: backwards, Memento-style storytelling, a curse that jumps from one person to the next like a virus, modern-day appliances behaving maliciously, and a female antagonist with long, face-obscuring hair. The first Juon also experimented a with a sort of time warp effect for one of its characters, which felt out of place because it did not match the rest of the film. Juon 2, on the other hand, takes that idea and makes it central to the presentation, with pretty great results. Shimizu has also progressed as a cinematographer: the shots, sets, and lighting are pretty high quality, and seem to be a distinct improvement over the original film.
That said, Juon 2 also has some fatal flaws. First of all, the story is sort of pointless. The main resolution of the first film explained to us why Kayako, the antagonist, likes to kill people in interesting ways. Having answered that question, the second film doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. We have a cast of characters that are assaulted by Kayako one after the other, but there’s no overall tension or drama to the story itself: it’s just a collection of scary scenes. I guess there is an attempt to tie the story together with a single, reoccurring character, but this just leads to a really dumb ending. While Shimizu is an expert at creating a five-minute scene that is full of tension, he seems to lose focus when considering the film as a while. I thought another of his films, Marebito, had the same problem.
As in the first film, Shimizu also shoots himself in the foot a couple of times with some really, really poorly done special effects. While not as egregious as the original Juon, Juon 2 has a scene or two where I was just unable to suspend my disbelief any longer. These scenes are minor and they don’t ruin the film, but they do sort of pull you out of the scary mood.
So, in summary, Juon 2 is almost exactly the same as Juon, only with less overall plot focus. If you liked the first movie, you’ll probably enjoy the second. If you hated the first movie, there’s nothing here that you’ll find any better. If you are looking for Japanese ghosts killing girls, you can do far worse than this film, but if you care about plot or script, you may be disappointed. While Juon 2 perfectly replicates the good parts of its predecessor, it also suffers from a lot of the same flaws.