Starring: Mimura Yū Yoshizawa Renji Ishibashi Haruko Wanibuchi Peter Ho
Running time: 105 min.
Reviewed by Bob Turnbull
What does it say about a movie when it isn't until way past the halfway mark that you realize you've actually seen it before? I know what it says about me (I really need to keep better track of what I'm watching), but you would think that something would've tweaked in my brain much earlier in the film - a character, a situation, a shock...Something. It wasn't until the ridiculous moment of one character stumbling across a necklace dropped earlier by another person (in a field) that I finally thought, "Hey, this is just a bit too familiar...Stupid, but familiar..."
Renpei Tsukamoto's 2005 sequel to Takashi Miike's straight-up J-Horror entry from 2003 starts like many typical horror sequels - a certain amount of time has passed since the events of the first film, there's some discussion about what happened and then it all starts up again. In this case, people are receiving mysterious cell phone calls from their future selves and they hear the last moments of their lives. The calls are usually a couple of hours to a few days in the future, so this typically gives the people (once they've seen the pattern) plenty of time to freak out about their impending death. Of course, nefarious ghostly presences are at work here and in Miike's initial film it worked well since the surprises, shocks and creepiness slowly built themselves up throughout the story. A small twist during the sequel's first death scene is that someone else answers the evil call and that person dies instead. That's not the only difference though...The previous occurrences all had victims with red candies left in their mouths after their deaths, but now the new fatalities have coal dust from a mine in Taiwan. Takako, a reporter familiar with the earlier events (and with her own back story), tries to follow some leads back to Taiwan to uncover the meaning of the coal dust. Thus begins yet another tale of a little girl who led a horrible and painful childhood.
Tsukamoto tries to juggle not only the last film's story (and back story), but also this new story, its own back story, several small love stories, a fistful of jump scares and a thriller component. It's all too much and none of it really works. Main character Kyoko has three days to figure things out (the time stamp of her death call), but the jumbling of the different stories removes any tension or excitement from how things will play out. The story elements are all too familiar to really cause much interest (there's even a scene with a well...), so there's a dependency on the scares and nervy tension to make the rest of the film worthwhile. Unfortunately, there isn't much of either. Most of the scares are of the "startle with sharp musical cue" variety (with little build up) and the tension dissipates not only due to the many storylines, but also because of the tendency of these ghostly presences to behave in pretty random ways. The film just starts pulling them out of closets, tunnels and luggage for no apparent reason other than they felt a scare was needed, so you can hardly be on pins and needles. I guess I'm asking a bit much for ghosts to behave in a consistent manner, but if you're going to set up a certain environment within which they exist then you should probably try to stick to it.
There are some nice touches to the film though. Along with a well handled and fairly interesting final reveal, there are some well-crafted images throughout the film - a ghostly-looking mother picking up her child in a rainstorm, a video cell phone call with an additional presence lurking behind the caller and an image of what appears to be Kyoko's final fate. It's few and far between though. The acting is adequate (but unremarkable), the story doesn't bring much new to the genre (except for simply adding too much at once) and it simply isn't that frightening. This is a sequel that won't cause you any harm to miss.