It's the first Ju-on 2, if that makes any sense. The two 2000 Ju-on films were straight-to-video, albeit with a seven-day run each at a single cinema in Tokyo, whereas the theatrical branch of the franchise didn't get going until a couple of years later. The dates are the key factor here. The original Ju-on was released on 11 February 2000. It was a big hit and so just over a month later, on 18 March, it got that theatrical mini-run at the Box Higashi-Nakano cinema... which was immediately followed on 25 March by a similar run for its sequel, Ju-on 2! Now that's what I call speedy movie-making. Ju-on 2 was then released on video on 14 April.
You're probably wondering how Takashi Shimizu churned out Ju-on 2 so quickly. Did he find it down the back of the sofa? Admittedly they're short, 70 and 76 minutes respectively, but even so you don't make many 76-minute movies in four weeks. The answer to the problem is that the first half-hour of Ju-on 2 is lifted from Ju-on. I don't mean "rips off the plot" or "borrows themes". It's the same footage. Instead of seeing this as an ordinary sequel, it might almost be better to think of this as an unusually extensive director's cut. Understandably having to watch the same footage twice has puzzled reviewers, who've sometimes even come up with silly conspiracy theories to explain it. Personally though what I think happened was that as a first-time writer and director, Shimizu originally wrote far too much material and ended up cutting out a lot of footage from what eventually became the first Ju-on. The result was an outstanding film.
When it became a hit, understandably he started wondering if he couldn't make use of this discarded footage... hence Ju-on 2. Unfortunately the results are disappointing, as you'd expect of footage that had previously been deemed not good enough.
Ju-on 2 can be divided into three unequal sections. The first is simply a cut-and-paste of the first film and it's not very satisfying, although not for the reasons you might expect. The middle section is messy, underwhelming and probably leftover footage from Ju-on. Finally the quality jumps back up for a final section of brief snippets that I suspect were written and shot in the short time available between Ju-on and Ju-on 2. I liked those. In the end there's enough good stuff here that I'm glad I watched the film, although I'd never say it's on a par with the original.
To start with, the cut-and-paste section's problems aren't anything to do with self-plagiarism. If I'm capable of watching the same film twice, then it shouldn't kill me to watch the same footage twice in different films. Last time I liked it. Unfortunately though this time Shimizu's cut most of the set-up with Yurei Yanagi's house and pregnant wife, instead jumping straight to the haunted house. This hurt it badly. I was less emotionally involved, the acting was being made to look worse and even the scares became less scary. Admittedly this is still basically strong, creepy stuff, but I found it more powerful at its original length. It also doesn't help that the stories Shimizu's chosen to borrow are starring the two actors I liked least in the original film, with both Yurei Yanagi and Yuuko Daike being capable of poor reaction shots.
One thing of mild interest though is that Shimizu's editing it back into chronological order. If you like the idea of the re-edit of Memento, you might like this. However even here there's a head-shaker, in that we see again the first film's baffling ending... and Shimizu doesn't do anything with it! It just happens and we move on to other stuff. Eh?
After that, we get into what I'm presuming is the deleted footage. It's not all that bad. It's at least in the same ballpark as everything else, but it lacks the focus and intensity of the previous film. I never got that doomed sensation, because the narrative's wandering too much and not keeping things tight on a single character. Sometimes I didn't even know whose apartment we were meant to be in. The teenage son isn't a great actor, it's all a bit random and overall I just wasn't being creeped out. It was okay, but Ju-on's normally better than that. However that said, it ends in a memorable apocalypse as the ghosts basically nuke an entire house. That was shocking. What happens to that nice grandma and grandpa must be one of the more powerful scenes in the Ju-on franchise.
I'm not sure about chapter 4, "Kamio". It's both quite short and quite good, which might seem to suggest that maybe it wasn't a cut sequence from the original, but it's also a pointless digression that adds nothing to the plot and is probably the first thing you'd cut. I didn't get that sense of everything fitting neatly together that's one of the strengths of the Ju-on franchise. I like the actors, though.
After that we're into the really short chapters. Chapter 5, "Nobuyuki" has some really freaky imagery. Finally chapter 6, "Saori", is practically a comedy sketch and might possibly star the same schoolgirls we saw in the next film.
This isn't a bad film. It's simply that it's not as strong as Ju-on, although I found it quite interesting to compare them and consider the reasons for their differences. It's occasionally reminiscent of Ringu, with the fuzzy TV signal and the way Kayako crawls on all fours near the end, but that would have been more obtrusive in 2000 than it is today. Don't watch it before the original Ju-on, though. That film's opening and finale get edited together to make Ju-on 2's opening chapter, "Kayako", and that's something that you'll be annoyed if you don't see first in its original setting. I'd also have appreciated an explanation of the first film's ending, but that's probably just me being stupid.
Despite everything I've said, at the end of the day it's still pretty good. Even the cut-and-pasted stuff does earn back its creepiness, despite a bad start. If you'd never seen any other Ju-on films, you'd be impressed... it's only compared to the rest of the franchise that it becomes clear that it's been done better elsewhere.