JU-ON (THE GRUDGE)
Film review by Lee Medcalf
Megumi Okina , Misaki Ito , Misa Uehara
movies, once a single genre under a single banner, now seem to require
reclassification: no longer is "slasher flick" or "ghost story" enough to
give you an idea of what’s in store for those that venture in to the
darkened cinema. Now it seems the definition needs to be Eastern or
horror is low on subtlety, high on gore, while the new breed of horror
from the East, clawing its way over to the Western world, relies on
disturbing imagery and atmosphere to draw the chills out of an audience.
the Japanese directors reason, "throw a bucket of blood and plastic limbs
all over the screen when a two minute shot of a ghostly child walking
towards the camera in a strange jerky motion will do a better job?"
Ring proved this, and so did Hideo Nakata’s second movie Dark Water:
atmosphere and creepy children are infinitely more scary than a guy with
bad skin, a Dennis the menace T-shirt, CGI and a string of droll
which brings us to the latest of the Japanese horror break out movies,
Ju-On, or The Grudge as it is also known. If you believe the
posters it's “The scariest film I have ever seen”, claims one Sam Rami,
although the fact that he is producing the US remake it has nothing to do
with it…. HONEST!
story revolves around a house, in which we see, in the opening moments, a
horrific multiple murder takes place of a wife, child and a pet cat… after
which the titles inform us that a Ju-On is "a curse born of a grudge
held by someone who dies in the grip of powerful angers. It gathers in the
places frequented by that person in life, working its spell on those who
come into contact with it and thus creating itself anew."
that firmly out of the way, what follows for the next hour and a half is a
record of every poor soul who comes in to contact with the house, directly
or indirectly. As one person goes in, they find themselves tormented to
death by the vengeful and incredibly creepy spirits of the wife and child.
Then, much like its horror step-brother Ring, the curse
moves in a viral way: as one tormented soul comes in to contact with other
people, so the two spirits also torment them to death.
movie’s strength is obviously the Japanese knack for this kind of horror,
as with the aforementioned Ring, Dark Water and also The
Eye, Ju-On is extremely atmospheric and manages to pervade
every frame with an impending sense of doom and unease. But, unlike the
other films, Ju-On goes one step further in trying to throw the
viewer off-kilter by employing a Pulp Fiction-style timeline to the
proceedings, and telling the story of each doomed victim of the house in
clearly defined chapters, with moments that time jump and sometimes
overlap each other. Characters that die in one chapter can be alive again
in another. This approach works to a certain degree, but is also the
film’s biggest failing. Whereas with Ring and Dark Water the
haunting and its final scary conclusion was presented as a single story,
Ju-On seems to endlessly repeat the same story, but with different
characters. This robs the film of its major scare, by exposing us to it
over and over again. That’s not to say that the film is without scares,
far from it. Ju-On manages to tap in to some pretty raw veins at
times. To where not even hiding under your duvet is safe; a strangely
terrifying notion that works brilliantly. Once again I have to ask why is
it that girls wearing white, with long lank black hair over their faces
are so bloody scary? And why do they so often feature in Japanese horror?
Ultimately the repetitiveness of the story leaves you with the feeling
that no matter how long this movie runs for, you will never get to a
reasonable conclusion or any kind of resolution. This may be the point.
After all, the spirits are after vengeance and will never stop, but the
film cannot do anything but eventually dull the audience to the scares…
almost like someone leaping out at you shouting BOO every fifteen minutes!
The first time makes you jump, but after the tenth time, knowing that it
happens so regularly significantly diminishes its power.
movie, which was made in 2003, and which has already spawned a series of
sequels and remakes, had hit these shores before its more famous
stable-mates I’m sure it would be held in higher regard in pantheons of
the horror genre, but sadly Ring did the same thing, and far