Review of Ju-On: The Grudge

Hey all, Happy New Year! A very timely  wish if I do say so myself!

(Hypothetical Reader: Um, New Years Day was like, four weeks ago. We are too far into the year for that kind of greeting. You’re late, bro!)

Never too late to fulfill a resolution! Remember that time I reviewed the short two movies from Japanese  TV, Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2  and I promised to review the full-length  film that  continued the Ju-On series?  Lately, I’ve been getting several hits for those reviews at this blog. Since that is the case, I’m going to review the feature length film that arose from these “Curse” movies. So… resolution  fulfilled!

(Hypothetical Reader: Dude, that was two years ago when you wrote those reviews and made that pledge. How long does it take you to make good on your promises?)

It does take me a while , doesn’t  it? I hope you don’t hold a “Grudge” on me! (Get it? Ha Ha Ha!) But I’ll  tell ya, the kind of grudge  at work in the 2002 Japanese  film Ju-On the Grudge is not to be trifled with. It is scary  and deadly. It affects the innocent – people that had nothing to do with whatever offense it was that spawned such a grudge, those unfortunate ones that happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. That “wrong” place is a house in Nerima, Tokyo. grudgehouseThe “wrong” time is anytime after a certain murderous tragedy took place on the premise. See readers, this affliction that haunts and claims the victims  of this  movie is more of a “curse” than a “grudge”, although I’m told the English translation of “Ju-On” is “Curse/Grudge”. A “grudge” , as per the movie, is negative  energy  in action; or, in reaction. Let’s assume there are scientific laws governing a body of supernatural physics. There is a steady harmony of body and spirit, life and death. The living go about their business and the dead stay dead, their spirits at peace in whatever plane of afterlife existence there happens to be. A horrific tragedy perpetuated with evil intentions can upset this balance. Evil and horror beget  evil and horror. In the film, the negative energy is attached to a house, where a mother, her little boy, and the family cat had been savagely  murdered by a jealous husband/father. Those who enter the house are susceptible  to the negative  energy that exists in the wake  of this tragedy. It attaches  to them. Can they rid themselves  of this negative  energy  by leaving the house? Fat chance! “The Grudge” is part of them now  and it follows them wherever they go. Go to work and it will haunt the office.  Go to school and it will be there too. Go home? That home will now be haunted.

How do you know if you’ve been affected  by this grudge? Well, if suddenly, there just happens to be this strange, creepy little boy with bluish skin running in the halls of your home, then the grudge is imminent. This creepy boy might open his mouth in a circle  and release a disorientating  creaking sound. Or he might mew like a cat. You might also  encounter  a young, undead woman crawling down the stairs, bending her  limbs in unnatural ways. The boy would be Toshio, the  woman Kayako, the ones murdered  by their father/husband. The murdered cat  is there too, mewing  from Toshio’s  mouth, or from the phone. Be careful of the calls you accept. If these crawling, creeping undead things catch you, you are toast. Your body will become theirs and will disappear from mainstream  life. You will become such an abomination.

 

 

We the viewers of this film witness such an unfortunate  scenario play out near the film’s  beginning. A family owns/occupies the house that once belonged  to the murdered family. The aging mother-in-law is no longer mentally  fit to care for herself. She sits on the floor  and mostly does nothing but stare vacantly.. This is what “The Grudge” did to her. A woman from social services pays her a visit , checks on her well-bring. Where  is the old woman’s son and daughter-in-law? “The Grudge” has already claimed them. And the poor lady from social services, she will  be taking a ghost or two home with her.

Ju-On: The Grudge is divided into several segments. Each segment, each story, focuses on a different character; all are victims of “The Grudge”. Every story is named after the character that receives the focus. Ju-On: The Curse 1 & 2 follow the same format but mercifully, Ju-On: The Grudge presents these stories (mostly) in chronological order. “The Curse” movies don’t, and it’s a real pain in the you know what trying to figure out what’s going on. I do admit, however, that this out-of-sequence story telling adds an unsettling element to what are intentionally disturbing films, so in this way they provide a continuity of mood.

Is it necessary to watch Ju-On: The Curse 1 & 2 before watching Ju-On: The Grudge?  I say no.  Ju-On: The Grudge does a quick rehash of some of the events in the previous two films, enough to keep viewers up to speed. But the earlier films devote more detail to story of the tragedy that began this whole curse/grudge business. They are most certainly worth viewing, but Ju-On: The Grudge is the best of the three. It is the culmination of “The Curse” films. The effects are better, the undead things are creepier, and it just seems the most confident of the three. I believe “The Curse” movies were accidental hits for director/creator Takashi Shimizu. Because of this, perhaps he had more of a budget, studio cooperation, etc. when it came to making Ju-On: The Grudge.

Ju-On: The Grudge makes my list for top 50 horror movies of all time. I believe it’s either in the teens or the twenties, I’d have to recheck. Oh fine, I’ll check right now. I’ll find the link to the list and….here it is – Top 50 horror Films. Oh! I see now that I have it at #32.  Well, it makes the list and that’s what’s important.  It’s a great film and like other Japanese or Korean Horror films, it achieves scares in a way that Hollywood horror films grudgepicturestruggle with. This film (like several other Asian horror movies) has a built-in flair for all things creepy. Maybe it’s the detail devoted to the ghosts, or maybe it’s the wise abandonment of cliché plots and over-hyped character types. Perhaps it’s the balance of mood and in-your-face scares. Whatever it is, Ju-On: The Grudge works well.

 


 

Ta da! I have finished my review of Ju-On: The Grudge.  Did I do good?

(Hypothetical Reader: You do know there are more movies to the series, like Ju-On: The Grudge 2, and several others. Are you going to review them?)

Yes I know of these. I didn’t watch them, so probably no.

(Hypothetical Reader:  Also, there is the American version, also directed by Takashi Shimizu, simply called “The Grudge.” Shall we expect a compare and contrast article soon?)

Sigh! I didn’t see the American version. I should watch it and…will I write about it? Oh I don’t know! I really don’t. Oh please, for now, just let me be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Ju-On: The Curse

ju-on-the-curseJu-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!

ju-on-jaw

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.

ju-on-blue-ghost-girl

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!