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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Return - /* sweet dreams of you */ - The Grudge 2 - /* don't go inside the house */

If I move forward fast enough the past cannot catch up to me

The Return is a surprisingly eery tale noted by some fine performances from the likes of our favourite Slayer : Sarah Michelle Gellar, along with Sam Shepard. The Return is another foray into this genre that she has made conspicuously her own from the clutch of films and tv works that include of course Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2 and venturing to Japan for the remakes of Takashi Shimazu's The Grudge and The Grudge 2. [ Does Scooby-Doo count ? ]

Some unseen person has been stalking the young Joanna Mills almost all her life as evidenced by an incident at the county fair where she sees some vision of a man that she tries to hide from and during that time she cuts herself.

Grown up, and as a very successful traveling salesperson from the Midwest, Joanna Mills [ Sarah Michelle Gellar ] returns to the scene that begins to haunt her dreams that harken her life as a little girl with her dad Sam Sheppard. But she knows she has never been to this particular red bar that she finds from her travel journals is in La Salle, Texas.

Joanna is the type who loves being on the road - she cannot stay still in one place for long. She is based in St. Louis, but has a lead on Marlin Industries which is in Texas, a territory that is off-limits to her but her plan meets the approval of her boss and the rancor of her fellow worker who was working the same lead.

On the long drive down there she phones up her Texas friend Michele who has supplied her the lead. Night follows day then strange things happen on her radio as the radio stations begin to fritz out and out comes the strains of Patsy Cline's Sweet Dreams of You. She changes stations but the same song comes out. She pops in a CD, from which still emanates Sweet Dreams. She comes to a screeching stop as she happens upon the glass and remains of two vehicles in a violent highway accident. She suffers a blinding white flash of light and when she wakes up in the day she is alone by the side of the highway with no signs of any accident.

Ever since she was a young girl, Joanna has cut herself but she does not know why. While she hides upder the bed in her hotel room in La Salle, she hears the same whispers and sees the same boots of a man saying "sunshine". A woman's face not her own appears in her reflection in the mirror.

What has she returned to? The Return is creepifyingly slow with long shots of nothingness and isolation in this hot Texas town in nowheresville, the tinkering of wind chimes, the delicate images of seahorses and seashells from her youth recur on the wall of the barn she is drawn to that belongs to the rogueish stranger she meets up with who saves her from an attack, details of a murder of a woman, all set against a score given to a prolonged delay on the music that keeps jolting you in place. Then moments of psychological breakdown, hitting rock bottom, then the terror and running for her life in her most Buffy like role yet as she's drawn to It's worth catching while you can in this city.

The Grudge 2
In case you wondered if Karen Davis survived the final scene of The Grudge, Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to the screen for her final appearances.

It is one of the most haunted houses in all of Japan and whoever enters get the curse.
Two years have gone by since the house was burned. Two of the popular girls Allison and Miyuki from International High School take a third girl Vanessa on a rite of initiation or dare to the house to bring her into their fold. There is a reluctance to go inside. Save for scorch marks that indicate the fire, the house remains almost as it was. The initiation for Vanessa is she must enter the closet, close her eyes and count to 10, when she opens her eyes she will whatever is inside. Of course it is meant to be nothing more than a practical joke by the two mean-spirited populars, but things go awry when the closet does shut and will not open despite their frantic tries. What does Allison see?

Back in California, Aubrey is sent by her demanding mother to Japan to save her sister at the hospital. We discover that Aubrey [ Joan of Arcadia's Amber Tamblyn who has also been on Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the two are close friends ] is Karen's sister. Karen is still afflicted by the curse of the house. She begs Aubrey to get her out of the hospital and goes wild. Aubrey is shooed out of the room and Karen is put under restraints again. Then those hands reach out for her at night.

Meanwhile in Chicago, something is afflicting the two children and their parents since someone returned to their neighbours apartment. Arielle Kebbel [ the brainy blonde from John Tucker Must Die ] is the hot cheerleader who takes care of her younger brother who begins to see things.

What is it that connects all these people and why? That is the curse of The Grudge 2 with Aubrey going against her sister's wishes to not go inside the house [ but she was pushed inside ]. Takashi Shimazu is the first to direct both of his original Ju-on and Ju-on 2 and their successful counterparts The Grudge and The Grudge 2. As in The Grudge, the second part will keep you jumping and has been known to give someone a restless night.

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