Clint Morris talks to the “Grudge 2” girls
Amber Tamblyn and Arielle Kebbel didn’t have a lot of scenes together in their new film, but off-screen its pretty apparent that the beautiful “Grudge 2” gals have a great rapport. The actresses finish each other’s sentences – as well as CLINT MORRIS’s – for this exclusive Interview.
“The Grudge 2” – a follow-up to the recent horror pic, “The Grudge”, which itself was based on a series of Japanese horror films called “Ju-On” – stars Tamblyn (“Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants”, TVs “Joan of Arcadia”) as a young American woman who is exposed to the same mysterious curse that afflicted her sister, in the first film.
Horror is new ground for Tamblyn – the daughter of screen veteran, Russ Tamblyn – she says, but the actresses found the script for the film so much of a page-turner that they just couldn’t say no.
“I had a small part in The Ring and I really enjoyed that experience. I had never really been able to sort of carry a horror film before, and my dad did The Haunting in the 50’s and said it was one of the most amazing experiences he ever had. When I read the script I was really excited about it and wanted to do a horror film”, Tamblyn says.
“I play Sarah’s [Michelle Gellar, from the original film] younger sister, Aubrey, who is sort of the underdog in the family in the sense that Sarah’s character Karen is really loved by her mother. Like our mom, she’s very close to our mom, and I’m not that close to our mother. So when Karen has gone through, you know, what happened at the end of the first Grudge, my mother sends me off to see what happened to her. It’s sort of about reevaluating and refiguring out my relationship with her and where that stands and where that leaves us, which it doesn’t leaves us anywhere. That’s a horror film for you.”
Adds Kebbel, “[And] I play Allison Fleming. She is not very attractive; she’s not very confident. She’s kind of the wallflower of the group. She’s studying over at the international high school and she’s kind of the girl you see in the background of all the pictures that wants to be a part of everything but never really is. One day the cool girls in school, played by Teresa Palmer who is an Australian actress, and Misako, who is a Japanese pop star, they’re the cool girls in school and they take me to the grudge house. I think it’s part of an initiation to finally become part of their group, when in fact it’s kind of part of their plot to humiliate me one more time and watch me get scared in this house. And, of course, nobody plans on the grudge curse coming alive. And then everyone gets what they deserve.”
The film sounds rather like the original “Ju-On”.
“Yeah, it actually is,” says Kebbel, a former model turned actress who appeared in the recent John Tucker Must Die. “What’s really interesting – when we were over there we sat and watched the Ju-On series and we were kind of… It was interesting because I think there’s moments in our movie that are scarier and more intense, and then I think there are moments in the original Ju-On that are scarier. I think that the Grudge 1 and 2 are actually better representations of Ju-On 1. Like it’s almost like they split Ju-On 1 in two and made Grudge 1 and 2.”
Tamblyn adds, “A lot of people have been asking how much this film is going to mirror the sequel to Ju-On and it really barely does. Maybe one plot does, but everything else is completely changed.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in the succession of the Ju-On/Grudge films is the setting – they’ve all been set in Japan.
The girls found working in Japan rather challenging at times.
“I think that the obvious thing is the time and obviously the language barrier, which puts a bearing on the time because everything takes twice as long. But I think also, depending on your mindset when you go over there, it can be one of the greatest gifts working over there because everything is – nothing is like over here”, says Kebbel.
“For me it was interesting going over there and even though we do what we do here, which is make movies and you show up on set everyday whether it’s on location or in a studio, and you’re kind of used to the routine. You get out, you change, you go to hair and makeup, you get your food, you rehearse, whatever. And over there, their tradition is completely different. I think for me in the beginning that was kind of a difficult change because I wanted to embrace as much as possible, but it required change on my part to learn and accept those things. But I think that’s kind of one of the gifts I came back with, too.”
Tamblyn adds that she was surprised, “…to find out that you’re supposed to take your shoes off when you go inside the houses as a sign of respect so you don’t track dirt in. And they would smoke inside the houses and the sets. That’s the irony of the Japanese culture, which I appreciate very much. I really had a great time just sort of experiencing a completely different lifestyle, a completely different way of doing things. Like, the fact that this first A.D. and the second A.D. – their jobs are completely switched and that was a very strange thing to wrap your head around for a while. Like the second A.D. is on the actual set.”
And yes, things do get “Lost in Translation”, the actresses confirm.
“[Like] where you’re trying to explain something to the director about how you feel about a certain thing. One of the things with [director Takashi] Shimizu-san for me was about looks. He really wanted like [gasping scared sound] – the frightened scare looks, so I had to talk to him about why I didn’t think that that was such a good idea. That was really hard because then it becomes charades because you’re like, ‘Two words: too big,’ trying to explain. Words don’t work after a while. You’re like, ‘How do I explain this to you when you don’t understand what I’m saying?’ I think there were areas there where what you were trying to explain was getting lost. But for the most part, it was pretty incredible. I think both Arielle and I picked up a pretty good amount of Japanese as far as knowing what was with the cameraman, or trying to figure out positions, where they wanted us to move for marking a scene.”
“It’s like when you walk on set and there’s this great like little mat that says ‘wipe wipe washy washy’,” adds Kebbel. “It means ‘wipe here’ because you wear slippers on set but because we were the American actors, in our scenes, obviously, we had shoes on. So before we entered the set, you’d have to wipe your feet off to clean the set. Every time we’d go home we’d go, ‘Wipe wipe, washy washy,’ so by the end you’d hear the crew going, ‘Wipe wipe washy washy.’ You try to have fun when you can (laughing).”
The girls are ecstatic with the finished product, and swear there’s hardly been any CGI used in the movie – which is sure to please old-school horror fans.
“We didn’t use CGI, so everything is about [timing]”, says Kebbel. “In the first Grudge there was a scene with Sarah [Michelle Gellar] when Kayako sticks her hand underneath her hair in the shower. All of my friends, when we saw the film, thought that was CGI but it wasn’t. That was timed. They had the actress put her hands through Sarah’s hair and by the time the camera had panned around, she had dropped out so you couldn’t see her. He loves to do stuff like that. Everything for him is about making it as scary as possible and making it real, which I think is a major absent part of horror films as of lately. Everything is so overexposed and over dilated that you get to a point where you’re like, ‘Well alright, I don’t have much to leave to the imagination.’ It’s also fine when you know that it’s real, or that you feel that the tricks are actually real, that it’s happening in the present of the scene. Then you can feel like you’re there, that there wasn’t like a completely different attitude afterward from somebody at a computer somewhere.”
Kebbel added, “Going back to timing – there are those moments when he is big on that. You do have your moments of silence, and what he really likes is he doesn’t like a whole lot of the screaming and the panic. He likes just the frozen terror. He’s really big on big eyes and frozen terror and seeing how your body reacts. For example, there’s this one moment when it’s probably one of the moments when I’m freaking out the most in the film and, of course, it’s my actual second day of shooting so I have plenty of time to prepare [said sarcastically]. The funny thing was is that every take we would do, he would come to speak with me a little bit. At first it was, ‘Just don’t shake so much.’ The next take it was, ‘Move your eyes a little lower and a little slower.’ By the end it was, ‘Don’t breathe.’
“What I realized he was getting me to do was hold the terror right here [indicating her throat]. Because what you realize is like he’s so specific, that even though you are already terrified and you’re shaking and you think you are right there in the moment, what he is doing is he is focusing that terror in one specific place so much – and he’s catching that on film. That felt amazing to do. Once you get there, then you have to work at the balance of not doing it too much and not overexposing that, and not being too big with it all. So there’s definitely those moments of silence and I think they’re pretty amazing to discover.”