Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The Grudge 2

You all know I watched The Grudge 2 for the sake of looking at Edison Chen (eye candy). I wasn't expecting much from the movie (I thought it's another toned down Hollywood remake) nor Edison Chen (he's no highbrow thespian), but I ended up pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained by both.

Like it says on Wikipedia, The Grudge 2 is the 2006 sequel to the 2004 American horror film The Grudge. The Grudge was a Hollywood remake of J-horror film, Ju-on. Though directed by the same Japanese director as for Ju-on, to me, The Grudge paled in comparison to the Japanese original. It was a considerable box office success which led to the sequels, but somehow, I felt less freaked out by it than I was with Ju-on.

But as I found out last night, The Grudge 2 is not a remake of the Japanese Ju-on: The Grudge 2. The Grudge 2 instead explores interesting concepts of spirit containment (or the loss of it) and the contagion of malicious evil (without giving out too many spoilers). It is not apparent from the start but the show is not told in a traditional linear time-line, and ends in a surprising twist of sorts. It turned out to be a rather clever script with a few thoroughly good scares snuck in between.

In terms of creep factor, I still feel the original Ju-on collection of films is more on the nose. Watching the DVD extras, I learnt that Takashi Shimizu (director of the original series) had to do things differently because he needed to make the story and innuendos easier for the western audience to understand. I have not thought this through properly but I guess that perhaps because of this that some things are made more obvious and left less to the imagination. As a result, the cinematography The Grudge 2 becomes pretty much tamed down and less creepy. Nonetheless, I still had some good shocks and small screams, though I didn't have any lingering images to haunt my dreams.

Besides the clever storyline, I was impressed by the improvement in Edison Chen's acting too. He turned in a credible performance, unlike in most of the Hong Kong productions where he mostly looks cool or emotes silently. To me, like some other actors we know, he has the disadvantage of having a pretty face, which detracts from his acting abilities. Maybe that's why he's mostly given the pretty-boy roles in the Hong Kong movies. Furthermore, in most of the Hong Kong productions he acted in, Cantonese is the main language used and I realised from scouring the web, he's not comfortable with the language at all. I suspect that is why he has fewer speaking lines in the Hong Kong movies. It is no surprise that as a Canadian born Chinese, brought up in the west, he is able to speak fluently and comfortably in English in The Grudge 2 and in the DVD extras interview clips. Perhaps because The Grudge 2 is filmed in language which he is comfortable with, he seems better able to understand the nuances and hence act better! I'm looking forward to seeing more films from him.

So, overall, The Grudge 2 was a pleasant evening of scary entertainment! I was very happy to see Sarah Michelle Gellar again, in the first few scenes. Maybe I need to have my own Buffy rerun!

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