Q: Making a sequel to a remake of a movie you already made a sequel to… Are you trying to do something completely different, or are you trying to keep parts of the original sequel?
Shimizu: The Grudge 1 was a complete remake of Ju-On 1, meaning the storyline was very similar, basically the same, but Grudge 2 is actually different from Ju-On 2, and I don’t think I would have accepted this job, if it was going to be the same storyline. Since it is a different story, my motivation was a lot higher, and I actually enjoyed doing this. I think the story being so different from Ju-On 2, the original, I really enjoyed it.
Q: Did you find it difficult to bring freshness to a film franchise that you’ve already done six times before?
Shimizu: Yes, it is very difficult to keep it fresh, and you know, since I’ve been doing this so many times, I feel like I’m just repeating things over and over. There isn’t really much to do there, meaning they’re so limited and those scary depictions are always similar now. It’s just really hard coming up with new ideas, and if I don’t find it fresh, audiences aren’t going to find it fresh either, so it is difficult.
Q: How do you overcome that?
Shimizu: Those ideas… Well, I just have to say that there isn’t really any method to come up with ideas, and you know, I spent all this time to come up with ideas, but time is really nothing, it doesn’t really help me. Sometimes I just come up with one when I’m walking. It just comes to me all of a sudden. Because of all that reason, since we couldn’t come up with ideas because the script came in so late for this shoot, that delayed everything, and the staff/crew here have a lot of difficult time because the script came in so late. So going back to how to find those ideas, I listened to those scary stories that happened to my friends or people I know, and I haven’t seen a ghost, but all these scary, mystery things that happened to me, maybe I can get ideas from that experience. To be honest, I’ve done six of them, and most of those ideas are coming from my every day life. Maybe I can tweak a little bit of something from everyday life. I can bring this into something interesting, and I keep thinking, “What about this? Maybe I can use this for something else.” That’s how I [come up with ideas]. It’s not just scary things, just anything interesting or things that happen to me.
Q: Are the cats back?
Shimizu: Yes, so if anyone likes cats, you should watch it! [laughs]
Q: What do you want to do next?
Shimizu: I do really like making horror movies because it’s interesting, because you have all these tricks to play on, it’s very much fun, but I do want to go for something different, maybe I can do different types of horror, including all these suspense or thriller type things, but the film that I really want to shoot now is a comedy.
Q: Are there any difficulties and limitations of having a PG-13 rating, which you didn’t have to deal with when making the original movies?
Shimizu: The rating issue is always difficult, because it’s never the same. The response they give me is always different, and every time, it is different. The last time I was doing this, I wasn’t that conscious about it, but since I’ve done it once, I’m more conscious about it this time. Every time we have blood or something, I always consult with the producer, so we know what we’re going for, and sometimes, we shoot different versions with less blood, or we even do it without the blood at all. That’s how I’ve been doing it. It is actually very… stressful process, because sometimes in the script, it says “splash of blood” or “grotesque” but that’s not what I’m really going for, but if it’s in the script, I kind of have to go for it.
Sometimes, I talk to the producers and they have some different opinions from mine, and there is this conflict, and also, it is a big contradiction, I think, because what it says in the script and what we’re doing is very different. So the movie I want to make is this comedy where this leading actress is dealing with this contradiction in between what it says in the script and what we’re doing [on the set to keep it PG-13].
Q: What did you learn on the first American movie that you're applying on the sequel?
Shimizu: Yeah, very small things but a lot of different things, especially between the actors and I, I think I’m more careful with them, because last time, I just didn’t know anything about this American actor’s system [referring to SAG union rules, presumably], the only system I knew was this Japanese system, and since I know what the American system is like now, I know how to make it work with them.
Q: Was there ever any suggestion when you did the first movie to move the story outside of Japan? Could this story ever take place outside of Japan?
Shimizu: [laughs] Why don’t I do that for part 3?
Q: Is this going to be a trilogy?
Shimizu: That’s what I hear, meaning that the producers and the production company is saying it’s a trilogy, but you know, if the Grudge 2 is not going to be a major hit, no one’s going to want to do Grudge 3. They just want to say that it’s a trilogy and that’s fine, but who knows? But I would love for that to happen. But if it’s a third one, people are going to expect more, right? It needs to be better and bigger and just everything more, so in that sense, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that, but I haven’t really thought about it.
Q: Have you ever considered writing or producing a third movie, and not directing?
Shimizu: If there is a director I can count on… the thing is that The Grudge has a very special storyline and this very unique world atmosphere to it, so if there’s any director who can create that, that I can count on, maybe I would take a part of whatever to cooperate. I would give them some ideas. As long as they can maintain the world that I created for The Grudge, but if this person or director is going to take into a completely [different] direction than I’m not going to take any part of it.
Q: Why do you prefer practical FX over CG?
Shimizu: It’s not that I dislike those CGI FX, but the thing is that if it’s a horror film, as soon as they figure out that it’s a CGI, it’s not going to be scary any more and when we see those things with CGI and it’s like fancy and big, it’s interesting, but at the same time, as soon as they find out that it can be real, not CGI, the level of scare comes down to half of it, and that’s just not something I like as a style. If people are not going to be scared of those CGI, I’d rather just do it practically, and if we can maintain the level of the scare I want to go for, I’d rather just do it practically. One of the most important things that I’m going for in the Grudge is that all these scares can happen in everyday life. Anybody can experience any of these things, because they’ll be very familiar to the characters’ life or characters, whatever they’re doing. So as soon as they see all these CGI things and they think, “Oh, that can’t be real”, they’re just going to lose that scare because that can’t happen to them anymore. If it’s a movie like Lord of the Rings or something, it’s all fantasy and people really go for that, so we don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff, but what I’m doing is very much of this everyday life where anything can happen to anybody type of thing.
Q: Having spent so much time developing this curse and its history, have you thought about how the curse can be ended?
Shimizu: In the script meeting, I do talk about that idea with writers and producers, but every time we try to stop the curse, our ideas just don’t go anywhere good, and we just can’t come up with anything interesting to stop the curse, so if that’s the case, I would rather just go for something that could never be stopped. But who knows, maybe something can be stopped in Grudge 3?
Q: How do you feel about the spoofing or satirizing of The Grudge in Scary Movie 4?
Shimizu: It really makes me happy because Scary Movie 4, they’re doing a spoof of War of the Worlds and King Kong and these are the movies with big budget, big movies, and then next to that, there’s Grudge, and I just feel like I’m getting such recognition, those movies, and in my mind, horror and comedy are very close, so in that sense, I would love to make movies like the Scary Movies in the future.
So actually, the year before last, I did this TV series of something very similar to a Scary Movie type of thing. It’s a comedy version of a horror film, and that was on the air really late at night, so it wasn’t that big, but I did something like that and I enjoyed it, so that’s something I’d really like to do. I think that the TV series that I just talked about will be released in America. I don’t think it’s going to get big promotion, but I think it will be released in America soon. These are the ideas that I got when I was shooting Grudge and Ju-On “If I do this, or if I do it in this way, it can be funny,” so I used all those ideas for this TV series. For Grudge 2, it’s all about scares. I have to think about how to scare people, but I think scaring people and entertaining people, I mean making them laugh, is so close that I think it’s always back-to-back, so when I’m thinking about this (horror), I can always come up with this (humor).
Q: What’s the TV series called?
Shimizu: We only have a Japanese title, and it’s called [in English] “Scary Big Family”.
Q: Can you talk about the state of horror in Japan right now, since a lot of the directors like yourself are making movies in Hollywood? Are there any new directors worth looking out for?
Shimizu: There are young directors who are doing horror movies, there are new young directors, because horror movies are easy to make in a way, because it can be low budget and they sell really well. But I have to be honest about those young directors, because I don’t think there’s anybody standing out that great yet. There isn’t anybody who is that unique or that different, who’s got that tone or taste of the horror that I think is that amazing yet. All I see lately is just very similar types of horror, over and over. There are always relatively the same, and sometimes, it’s clearly somebody’s just been [offered like copy?] other people’s work and I just don’t want this horror boom to be ending cause that’s how I’m seeing it right now.
Q: What horror directors do you respect now?
Shimizu: Well, those names that I’m going to mention, I just want to be careful, because there are sometimes that those directors don’t want to be called as horror directors, but still… Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Norio Tsuruta, Hideo Nakata, the directors, and writer-wise, Hiroshi Takahashi and Chiaki Konaka [the latter wrote the screenplay for Shimizu's excellent Marebito movie].
Staci Layne Wilson reporting [photo of Staci with Shimizu taken in 2004, courtesy of StarLens.com/Enzo Giobbé]
= = =
Be sure and read our Grudge 2 on-set interviews with Amber Tamblyn, Edison Chen, and Takako Fuji.
Don't forget to read our exclusive interview with Takashi Shimizu from 2004.