Ju-On: The Curse is one of those movies you watch, you enjoy, and when it’s over, you then read about the plot on wikipedia and try to figure out what the hell you just watched!
I have seen, but have yet to write about, The Grudge, the most familiar film of the Ju-On series. (The original Japanese film, not the American) Ju-On: The Grudge is decent but confusing. I was going to write up a review right after seeing it, but I decided to wait until I had seen the lesser-known prequels. Perhaps then, I would have more to say about The Grudge. With a solid knowledge of the back-story, I would be armed with experience and more able to write a decent review. The Movie Doctor inside my brain agreed and he prescribed for me initial viewings of Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2, along with a second viewing of Ju-On: The Grudge. So I have swallowed the first pill (The Curse), and…… I am less confused. Hooray! Still…I don’t know. I feel I am missing something. But the doctor is ordering me to complete my therapy, so this I will do. Also, he suggested I read up on the subject. Yes Doc, will do.
Ju-On: The Curse is a Japanese film that is available with English subtitles. It is about a house and a little boy, who at first comes off as disturbed, perhaps sad, but is otherwise normal. Then his face contorts and he meows like a cat in agony. There is also this young, bluish-faced woman who pops out of cubbyholes. Then there’s this girl who is missing a lower-jaw – yikes! These are the ghosts, and there are several more. They are all connected, in some way, to this house that is at the center of the story. Did I say story? Perhaps it’s better to say stories! There are six tales, each named after an important character within each story. The stories are all connected; some take place within the haunted house; which is a modern home in a suburb of Tokyo. The tales that take place elsewhere feature characters that have been inside the house. But just because they are outside the terrifying confines it does not mean they are safe. No siree Bob! The terror follows them!
Now, here’s the kicker! The stories are not shown in sequence. Story 1 might be take place after Story 4. Perhaps Story 4 takes place after Story 2, or maybe Story 6 sets it all in motion, or is that story 5? Some films succeed with this kind of non-linear storytelling. Pulp Fiction is one example of such a success. Ju-On is not. The tone of this film is effectively eerie, but I was forced to come down from my “creepy high” in order to figure out what is what, only to fail at this pursuit of understanding. Hence, I was forced to go elsewhere to learn the modus operandi of the story.
According to wikipedia:
The title of the films translates roughly to “Curse Grudge”, which means putting up a curse while bearing a grudge against someone or something. The first two films in the series were so-called V-Cinema, or direct-to-video releases, but became surprise hits as the result of favorable word of mouth. Both films were shot in nine days and feature a story that is a variation on the classic haunted house theme, as well as a popular Japanese horror trope, the “vengeful ghost” (onryō). The titular curse, ju-on, is one which takes on a life of its own and seeks new victims. Anyone who encounters a ghost killed by the curse is killed themselves and the curse is able to be spread to other areas.”
Some of my confusion is no fault of the film and can be attributed to my ignorance of Japanese language and culture. Perhaps I would feel more at home with the film had I known the definition of “Ju-On;” or if I had the concept of the onryō engrained in my cultural psyche. But how does this “curse” play out? The film understates this, if it states it at all.
From the same wikipedia page:
According to Ju-On, when a person dies with a deep and powerful rage, a curse is born. The curse gathers in the place where that person has died or where they were frequently at, and repeats itself there.
Yeah, I didn’t get this. Without the above description, I would be at a loss to the whys and wherefores. Basically, a family is brutally murdered inside their home (the house that is central to the story) and the ghosts of the victims come back and kill others that enter the home. Or, the ghosts will follow people that have entered the home and kill them elsewhere. The curse spreads and lives on.
I am always appreciating fresh approaches to haunted house tales. And fresh this is! A tragedy within the walls creates a curse that spreads to those that enter the house. It attaches itself to them, so that they just might happen to take a couple of ghosts home with them. I like it! It fits in nicely with the “Houses that exist as entities” theme that I have come to love
But for me, this series would be so much more effective it the film makers would just stick to good old fashion linear storytelling. I would be able to trace the deadly path of the curse had stories been shown from beginning to end. The ghosts in this film, they are so darn creepy! Their faces are horrific, their movements uncanny. And the sounds they make when moving along? Unnerving, but in a “gotta love it, it’s horror” kind of way! Alas, the out-of-sequence storytelling is a trademark of the series. Fine! I will bear with it. I just wish this series didn’t have to make me work so much in order to appreciate it!