Now, it's a new breed of characters ready to scare the heck out of people in the sequel, The Grudge 2. Amber Tamblyn stars as Sarah's sister; alongside her are three different story lines that weave their way into each other; one of those plots involves Arielle Kebbel.
The two actresses were on hand at Comic-Con 2006 to talk about working on the film and with director, Takashi Shimizu. Here's what they had to say:
Amber, what was it like for you going into this genre?
Amber Tamblyn: You mean going into a horror genre?
Amber Tamblyn: Well, I had a small part in The Ring and I really enjoyed that experience and I had never really been able to carry a horror film before; my dad did The Haunting and said that was one of the most exciting experiences he's ever had. I don't know, when I read the script, I was really excited about it and wanted to do a horror film.
Arielle, what is your role in this film?
Arielle Kebbel: I play Allison Flemming; she's not very attractive, she's not very confident -
Amber Tamblyn: Clearly...
Arielle Kebbel: She's kind of the wallflower of the group; she's studying at the international high school. She's kind of the one who you see in the back of all the pictures; she wants to be part of everything, but never really is. So one day, the cool girls in school, played by Teresa Palmer, 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 an initiation to finally become part of their group, when in fact it's part of their plot to humiliate me one more time, watch me get scared in this house. And of course, no one plans on this 'grudge curse' coming alive. And then everyone gets what they disserve.
That's one of the plots of the original Japanese film?
Arielle Kebbel: Yes, it actually is, and what's interesting is when we were over there, we sat and watched the Ju-On series; and it's interesting because there are moments in our movie that are more intense and more scary. And I think there are moments in the original Ju-On that are scarier, and it was actually interesting to see -
Amber Tamblyn: It actually takes from both
Amber Tamblyn: Yeah, a lot of people have been asking how 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.
Arielle Kebbel: It's kind of like Ju-On 1
Amber Tamblyn: It's Ju-On 17
Arielle Kebbel: Surprise!
Amber Tamblyn: There are scenes from it you'll see today; it's great!
What were the challenges of shooting in Japan?
Amber Tamblyn: What wasn't a challenge?
Arielle Kebbel: Yeah, what isn't. I think the main things are the time and the language barrier, which puts a baring on the time because everything takes twice as long. But when you go over there, that could be one of the greatest gifts because everything over there is nothing like it is here. For me, it was interesting, because we do what we do here which is to make movies, and you show up at a studio or a location and you're making movies. And you're kind of used to the routine - you get up, you work out, you change, you go to hair and make-up, you eat your food, you rehearse, whatever. Over there, their tradition is completely different. And for me, that was kind of a difficult change because I wanted to embrace as much as possible, but it required a change on my part to learn and accept those things. But I think that's one of the gifts I came back with, too.
Amber Tamblyn: I was really fabulously surprised to find that you're supposed to take your shoes off before you go into the house so you don't track dirt in. But they would smoke in the houses and on the sets - that's the irony with the Japanese culture, which I appreciate very much. I really had a great time experiencing a completely different lifestyle, a completely different way of doing things. The fact that the first AD and the second AD - their jobs are completely switched, which is a very strange thing to wrap your head around for a while. Like the second AD is actually on the set. And some things really do get lost in translation - like you're trying to explain something to the director about how you feel about a certain thing. One of the things with Shimizu for me was about looks; he really wanted (huge gasp), like a really frightened and scared look. I really had to talk to him about why I didn't think that was such a good idea. And that was really hard, because then it becomes charades; you're like 'two words, ok, too big' - words don't work after a while. It's kind of like, 'How do I explain this to you and you're not understanding?' I think there were areas there where you were trying to explain some things and they were just getting lost. But for the most part, it was pretty incredible. I think both Arielle and me picked up a good bit of Japanese, as far as with the cameramen, trying to figure out where they wanted us to move to hit our marks.
Arielle Kebbel: Or 'squishy...squishy, squishy;' it was kind of like if you go, 'squishy?' 'Ah...squishy, squishy.' Or when you walk on set, there's this great mat that says 'wipe, wipe, washy, washy.' And it means you wipe because you wear slippers, but because we were on set, the American actors, obviously we had shoes on. So it meant that before you walked on set, you would have to wipe your feet off. So every time we would walk on set, we would go 'Wipe, wipe, washy, washy!' And by the end, you'd hear the crew go 'wipe, wipe, washy, washy.' I don't know, you try and have fun when you can.
Amber Tamblyn: Obviously language.
Arielle Kebbel: Yeah, I think that's where we're going; that's where we're headed with this.
Amber, do you have a lot of scenes with Sarah?
Amber Tamblyn: Yeah, I have scenes with Sarah.
Arielle Kebbel: I have scenes with Amber, which is way better.
Amber Tamblyn: High 5! Wooooo!
What's the relationship with you and Sarah?
Amber Tamblyn: I play Sarah's 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, her character is really close to our mom, and I'm not that close to our mom. So when Karen went through what happened in the end of the first Grudge, I'm basically - my mother sends me off to see what happened to her. So it's kind of about re-evaluating and re-figuring out my relationship with her and where that stands and where that leaves us - which I don't think is anywhere. That's a horror film for you.
What is the role of Edison Chen?
Amber Tamblyn: Edison plays someone who was more connected to Karen, Sarah's part of the story. He's someone who has a little bit more background about the house and the story behind the house and the family that inhabited the house before and all those sort of things. He has always been curious and suspicious about what is going on inside that house and what happens to Karen is another thing to prove that. So we get together to figure out what is going on and what is happening to Karen and all those sort of things. We're sort of a duo of sorts, and we didn't really get to work together because there are so many different platforms and story lines in this film -
Arielle Kebbel: Yeah, there are three solid story lines -
Amber Tamblyn: And they become interwoven, but Edison and I worked mostly together.
And what about Jennifer Beals?
Arielle Kebbel: Well, you're just going to have to watch and find out. No, I think the fun of this film is that it sticks with Shimizu's style and all of his Ju-On and Grudge films, which is it's totally non-sequential order. A lot of it is flashes and you're trying to figure out who's dead, who's alive, what is the time sequence of it all happening, and how is it all related. And the fun thing about this film is it's a sequel and you have all those things, but they're doubled and sometimes tripled because there are three solid story lines. And it takes until the end of the film to figure out how Jennifer's story line is linking to Amber's story line which is linking to my story line. So some of the secrets are all part of that.
Amber Tamblyn: And she does this incredible 'flashdance' in the middle; it was crazy - believe me, you are going to be so excited! They just bust out; there was this chair there.
How many of your scenes are performed in mostly silence?
Arielle Kebbel: That's a good question.
Amber Tamblyn: Perform in silence?
Arielle Kebbel: I scream a lot. I think like what Amber was saying before about being too big or having the frightened look. The interesting thing is we're making a Japanese story, but for an American audience, and what we were supposed to bring to the table is how are we to tell his story and how will it appeal to our viewers. And a lot of what he did was body positioning - at least for me.
Amber Tamblyn: Timing is a huge factor.
Arielle Kebbel: Yeah, timing is huge
Amber Tamblyn: Because he doesn't like using CGI, so everything is about - in the first Grudge, there's that scene with Sarah when Takako sticks her hands underneath her hair in the shower. All of my friends, when we went to see the movie, thought that it was CGI, but it wasn't; they had the actress put her hands through Sarah's hair, and then as the camera panned around, she had dropped down so you couldn't see her. And he loves doing stuff like that; he loves making things as scary as possible, and making it real, which I think is a major absence in horror films as of lately. Everything is so overexposed and over-dilated that you get to the point that 'oh, there isn't much to leave to the imagination.' It's more fun to know that it's real, or that tricks are real and that it's happening at that presence of the moment. Then you can feel like you were there and have a completely different attitude that someone's doing on a computer afterwards.
Arielle Kebbel: Yeah, so in those moments - he's big on that - you do have your moments of silence, and he doesn't like a lot of the screaming and panic; he just likes the frozen terror. He's really big on big eyes and frozen terror, and seeing how your body reacts. What I found out - there's this one moment where I'm freaking out the most, and it was my second day of shooting, so I had plenty of time to prepare. The funny thing was, in every take we would do, he would come speak to me. At first, it was 'just don't shake so much,' and on the next take it was 'move your eyes a little lower and a little slower,' and by the end it was 'don't breathe.' What he was getting me to do -
Amber Tamblyn: I was going to ask you about that.
Arielle Kebbel: He wanted the terror right here; you realize he's so specific that even though you're shaking and you think you're right there in the moment, what he's doing is focusing that terror into one specific place and he's capturing that on film. So that felt amazing to do, but it's also once you get there, working with the balance of not doing it too much and focusing on that and not making it too big. There's definitely those moments of silence, and I think they're pretty amazing to discover.
Amber Tamblyn: I laughed a couple times, especially when he yells out, 'It's ok,' and the very small amount of English he would know.
Arielle Kebbel: 'Action, action;' they don't actually yell action over there, but he did that for us.
Amber Tamblyn: 'Cut-o, cut-o'
Arielle Kebbel: 'Cut-o. Last looooooks.'
Did your dad have a cameo?
Amber Tamblyn: No, we were trying to shoot for that because Shimizu is a - it's very funny - two things, Shimizu is a huge fan of The Haunting, but also Taka, our producer and Shimizu are huge War of the Gargantuas fans. So when he came over there, it was just funny to see our producer and this incredibly famous director to be bowing, taking his head and bowing, taking pictures with my dad; they were just hysterical about it. They brought in pictures to have him sign it and stuff; it was really fun. But, no, he didn't have a chance to make it into the film. He only had a chance to come out for a week or so.
Why do you think Asia makes the best films?
Arielle Kebbel: I think that's a personal opinion; I don't mean that in a bad or good way.
Amber Tamblyn: I think there's a major definitive difference about having a film about ghosts that have played out real scenarios and real situations that we, as human beings, go through and go through - things like domestic violence, which is what The Grudge is basically about, the haunting of what a woman went through, the horrible pain, and all these different things. So when you have that, you're basically taking a supernatural idea that is based on something real, where in our culture, we have Paris Hilton running into a stake - is that what it was?
Arielle Kebbel: Everyone scream with me; I'm too embarrassed to do it myself - 'Ahhhhhh' (with help from Amber).
Amber Tamblyn: I don't even know what that was, but I just went along with it.
Arielle Kebbel: No, that was it, that was great; you were her!
Amber Tamblyn: Somebody told me she got stabbed with a stake. My point being - Japanese horror, or Japanese film in general has so much to do with the spiritual world, which is something we Americans don't honor all the time in film, and especially in the genre of horror. It's just seen as the 'come and go' flick, 'oh, we'll be here for a little while.' There's so much, there's the Kurosawa, and [Hizaki] and all the Japanese directors, and even with all the animation, and the Japanimation, and all those things - so much of their underlying themes, so much about what their films are about are spirituality and human suffrage, and a lot of that stuff and overcoming that.
Arielle Kebbel: That's also terrifying.
Amber Tamblyn: And I also think that's beautiful, and when you're watching - for me, when we were watching the Ju-On series, the films, I was scared because I was watching a girl try and escape a past, that she was dead and trying to escape a past of abuse and terrorizing - and even if you haven't been through them personally, you have to understand them, because that's what we see on CNN every day and you understand that. When you put that in the supernatural and so much can be played with and the unknown can come into part, you're mixing the known with the unknown, and that's what's amazing about Japanese film, and Japanese horror films of today.
Arielle Kebbel: Just don't call it 'movie magic.'
What kind of role did Sam Raimi have in the film?
Amber Tamblyn: Sam had a hover cloud that would hover over the building that we worked in - he's actually a master of after production; I've never seen someone -
Arielle Kebbel: Spidey-sense, Spidey-sense
Amber Tamblyn: Somewhere next to the Scientology building, there was Sam Raimi -
Arielle Kebbel: O.K.
Amber Tamblyn: Sam had a fairly big amount of involvement; because he was shooting Spider-man at the same time, he wasn't able to be there. But you would hear things or notes of things he wanted to do, or encouragement, he was really wonderful. For our wrap party, he put together awesome clips from the film; he specially edited some of the scenes, just so we could see it, so the crew could feel happy about what they were doing, and see a piece of the product, so that was pretty incredible.
Arielle Kebbel: And also, what I like is he's very involved with the marketing at this point, and the creative aspect of - he's very involved with what they're trying to do on the internet, and the marketing, what's happening now, what's happening midway, and what's happening closer to October. And I think that really says something, that he's not just on board from the beginning of what we're shooting, but he's taking the marketing side just as importantly, or just as important as the filming and everything. And I think that's a nice little 'touché' to us.
Has anyone talked to you about doing the next Traveling Pants movie?
Amber Tamblyn: Yes. Actually, right now, I'm doing a film called Spring Breakdown with Amy Poehler, Parker Posey - Rachel Dratch wrote it. The director, Ryan Shiraki - he likes to shorten sentences - so he says 'I love The Sisterhood of the Traveling P' and he's been begging for a sequel forever now, and he's trying to get America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel to do walk-on parts, just really quick walk-on parts in the background and wave. There's been talk about it, but not to a very large degree, not that I know of.
What about what's next for you, Arielle?
Arielle Kebbel: I do; I just got back from Utah. It's a smaller role, but it's a great story. Right now, it's called Forever Strong - that's the working title. It's based on the true story of a high school rugby team and they've won 338 games, and have only lost 8 in their entire career; it's about this coach and the inspiration to his team. Their motto is 'We don't do anything to embarrass our team, or family, or ourselves.' It's kind of like a Friday Night Lights meets Miracle, but what I loved about it is it's an entirely true story and at the end, there's just statistics going on the page, and it just gives you chills. My part is - there's this troubled kid, he's a rugby player in Arizona; he gets in trouble and he's sent to Utah, so he's this tough guy who doesn't want to adjust -
Amber Tamblyn: You play a guy?
Arielle Kebbel: I don't, I wanted that part, but they gave it to a real guy. I'm not quite at Cate Blanchett's level yet; I'm working on it for next year, I don't know. So anyway, he comes to this new rugby team, and he's forced to fit in, and of course he doesn't want to in the beginning. But towards the end, he sees there's something very special about the way these people treat each other and respect each other and that the way they play on the field passes onto the way they live their lives. And so I play the girl who catches his interest at the new school and there's kind of a little twist there, and more than anything, I came aboard because it's such an inspirational story and one that deserves to be told. Ryan Little is directing it, and I did a film with him last year called Outlaw Trail; so the entire crew is back. I had people greeting me who were PA's, and it's a very great kind of family picture, and that's what I'm working on right this second.
The Grudge 2 opens in theaters October 13, 2006 - that would be 'Friday the 13th' if anyone didn't know.