ghostGakkou no KaidanNaomi NishidaAki Maeda
Gakkou no Kaidan 2
Also known as: School Ghost Stories 2, Haunted School 2
Medium: film
Year: 1996
Director: Hideyuki Hirayama
Writer: Satoko Okudera
Actor: Hironobu Nomura, Naomi Nishida, Masakane Yonekura, Kyoko Kishida, Kitaro, Aki Maeda
Keywords: Gakkou no Kaidan, ghost, horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 103 minutes
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 12 June 2024
Gakkou no Kaidan 2
It's both worse and less interesting than the first film. It's even less horror-like and significantly more Children's Film Foundation. Adults are liable to fall over, get hit by flying carrots, fall into pit traps, etc. One makes a habit of fainting. There's nothing supernatural for almost the first half-hour (bar a pre-credits sequence) and the whole thing feels like a mess. Children do silly stuff. One of them is a dick. Mental stuff happens at random, then everything's resolved with a Big Chaos Ending that doesn't ultimately mean much.
They resurrect one of the best things about the first film, though, i.e. some of the core cast being ghosts themselves. They even put a slightly different spin on it.
Bizarrely, this film was chosen as one of the Top 10 Japanese films at the 39th Blue Ribbon Awards. That looks crazy to me. The film's not even good, let alone top ten of anything. Maybe they were playing Awards Catch-Up for the first film being a hit? I don't mind Kyouko Kishida winning the award for Best Supporting Actress, though, because she's the only thing here I actively liked. She's a grand old acting veteran, born in 1930, and she makes the film classier even in a relatively silly oogie-boogie role. Mind you, that blood writing on the ceiling was offensive and unfair when it called her "ugly".
Hironobu Nomura's back from the first film, but in a different role. He's in the first three Gakkou no Kaidan films, every time playing someone new. He's likeable, despite here playing a burglar. Mysteriously, his character understands the non-dialogue of a mute boy who can only communicate by blowing a whistle. They're like Lassie in the old TV series. It's amazing. They have sophisticated conversations in which the boy's just blowing his whistle and Nomura keeps interpreting an improbably specific meaning. "You know some difficult words, don't you?"
The child actors are again surprisingly decent, although I disliked that macho bad-but-small boy. (The character, not the actor.) Amusingly, he's more easily scared than the tough girl in a pink dress. The cast isn't the problem.
Some of the spooky ideas are familiar or even hackneyed (moving statue, painting whose eyes move to watch you, a return for the orang-utan, etc.), but there are some strange moments too. The room of faces is weird, as is the upside-down marching. The idea of a haunted computer room is intriguing and under-used. There's no Hanako or Kuchisake Onna, but there is a Rokurokubi.
Ultimately, the film lacks a dramatic spine. It doesn't have a protagonist and doesn't seem to be following anyone in particular, so one gets the impression of a mush of kiddified non-horror. There aren't any memorable children like the first film's vomit twins, or the girl who looks like a boy and wants to find her sister. No one here becomes a dramatic focus, except perhaps the dickhead and him I disliked. The generous word for the film's use of its child cast would be "ensemble". (They're also idiots, c.f. the food fight at the beginning.) As for the burglar, he basically just wants to steal stuff and escape.
It's not a disaster, though. If your children liked the first film, you don't need to stop them from watching this. I still approve of the franchise in general and I'll be watching the next film tomorrow.