2 February 2016



This is the sequel to the film that changed the face of Japanese horror forever, along with, of course, RING (1998). A television crew is filming an episode of a paranormal show in the murder house. The show is called HEART-STOPPING BACKGROUNDS and the murder house, for those who haven't seen the films, is the residence in Japan where a housewife called Kayako Sakei was brutally murdered by her jealous husband, Takeo.

Takeo was very thorough in his task. He killed Kayako in a way that could hardly be called humane (not that there is a humane way to bump off your missus) but, not only that, he also killed their little son Toshio and the family cat, just for good measure. He then hanged himself. Well, what else could you do, I suppose, after committing such a heinous and unforgivable crime?

Anyway, the spirits of all three family members linger on, unhappy and restless, in the family home. Thus, a ju-on or grudge is born, a curse that hangs about the place where someone was murdered and died 'in rage or sorrow.' There's surely enough of both of these powerful emotions present in the Sakei dwelling to adequately provide a dozen homes with 'grudges.'

The first film saw a Japanese care worker come to visit a new family living in the old Sakei house. She comes to take care of the elderly mother of the man of the house. The curse, or grudge, reaches out to poison her life and the life of anyone she comes into contact with. That's what a grudge does, see, it affects anyone who comes in the house where it lingers, like a big old horrible spider, to catch and kill its prey.

It's not really a nice thing, is it, a grudge, and I should know. I'm holding at least three at the moment. Two are against exes of mine and one is against a shop assistant who tried to short-change me on some bargain books. Because they're such hard work and so flippin' time-consuming, I try to limit myself to holding only three grudges at any one time. That's harder than you think, seeing as there are so many knob-heads out there just queuing up to piss you off, haha. Pardon my French...!

As you can probably guess, the curse has a field-day with the cast and crew of HEART-STOPPING BACKGROUNDS. These include scream queen Kyoko, the director Keisuke, presenter Tomoko and hairstylist Megumi. By association, Kyoko's fiancé Masashi, by whom she's preggers, and her lovely old mum, and Tomoko's boyfriend Noritaka are also deep in the s**t. When I said that the curse has a field-day, I meant it. It has a flippin' ball.

Tomoko and Noritaka's story is particularly grim. If you guessed that they don't have a happy ending, you guessed right. And poor Kyoko's lovely old mum...! I nearly cried. By the way, there's something a little, shall we say, off about Kyoko's pregnancy. Just what exactly is it that's growing in her ickle tummy-tumkins...?

And when it's time for the- ahem- baby to come out, well, let's just say that Kyoko's gonna need a bit more than a little gas and air and a jab of pethidine to help her get through it. Yes, I've been there myself, haha.

This is a good scary film, told in a non-linear fashion. Which basically means arseways, to the uninitiated. The American English language versions concentrate a lot on the spooky closet leading to the creepy attic of death and concealment. This Japanese film focuses much more on the stairs. The stairs going down, if you know what I mean. I like both ways of handling the horror. It's all good, as they say.

This film reminds me a lot of director Rick Rosenthal's 2002 film HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, in which killer Michael Myers's Haddonfield home is the location for an Internet reality show. Six young people hole up in the derelict, abandoned old house and try to figure out what drove the Masked One to kill. Good luck with that. Michael picks 'em off like fish in a barrel. I wouldn't expect anything less.

I think, given a choice, I'd rather face off against Michael Myers than Kayako. Being female, I
could maybe appeal to his softer, or even his harder, side, heh-heh-heh. But Kayako, she ain't got no mercy. And I ain't got nuthin' she wants, put it like that. Also, I'd rather spend a night in the old Myers house than a single solitary minute in Kayako's gaff. That place is haunted to buggery, seriously.

Oh, by the way, there's a possessed wig in this film that totally reminds me of HELL TOUPÉE, the TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Homer comes into possession- pardon the pun- of criminal Snake's full, luscious head of hair after Snake's execution. I kept expecting to hear Snake's voice saying 'Im totally gonna KILL you, Chickie-Pie...!' while the wig was chasing poor s**t-scared Megumi around the place.

This film is an excellent scary watch. It works as a sequel or as a stand-alone horror film, though you should try to watch all the films if you can. That's my personal recommendation, haha. I'm sure you'll take it on board...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at:

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