2003 - R - 92 Mins.
|Director: Takashi Shimizu|
|Producer: Taka Ichise|
|Written By: Takashi Shimizu|
|Starring: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara |
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
|Official Site: www.juonthegrudge.com/|
Coming this October is the latest Hollywood adaptation of an Asian horror flick. ‘Ju-On: The Grudge’ is being advertised and touted as the next ‘Ringu’ – the startling Japanese horror movie that was remade as ‘The Ring.’ What the movie ends up being is a throwback – an old-fashioned haunted house story though this one is set in suburban Japan.
I've got my eye on you
Lacking the stylistic flair or special effects of ‘Ringu’, the relatively low-tech scares are still pretty effective. Writer/director Takashi Shimizu’s tale of a haunted house is told in episodes, focusing on the various people who unfortunately encounter the malevolent spirit within.
Apparently, this little townhouse was the site of a nasty murder. There are a couple ghosts who are happy to terrorize and kill its inhabitants. Roughly translated, “Ju-On” means vengeful ghost – the spirit of someone killed particularly violently. These ghosts take their revenge on the living, creating more Ju-On’s of course.
The film is pieced together in episodes. It begins with a young social worker, Rika, who is sent to check in on an elderly woman. When she finds the home in disarray, she dutifully cleans up. But upstairs, she discovers a little boy named Toshio. Startled, she runs back to the elderly woman to ask who the boy is. Then she sees the first ghost and she becomes catatonic with fear.
In the sequential episodes, other social workers, police officers, and relatives all enter the house only to be pursued by the ghosts. When a group of schoolgirls lose their classmates, they also find strange things happening when class photos develop into distorted omens of impending doom.
Linking all the episodes are the apparitions of the little boy and a schoolgirl. Some of their appearances are hair-raising and spooky but some are surprisingly amateur but effective. How often do you get scared of what’s behind a closet door anymore?
When ‘Ju-On’ is effective, it creates a sense of urban unease. We are watching these people in big modern hospitals and apartment buildings but an old woman can see something that you can’t. A black cat appears out of nowhere. Surveillance cameras pick up strange shadows.
But ‘Ju-On’ stumbles when its characters, frozen in fear, wait and scream while a ghost closes in. It’s one of those frustrating moments from cheesier B-horror flicks where you want to scream, “Run now, you cow!” at the slow moving heroine.
Along with ‘Ringu’ and ‘The Eye’, Asia seems to be the latest wellspring of horror movie ideas. Wildly popular in Japan, there are actually 4 ‘Ju-On’ movies. The western remake of ‘Ju-On’ will be called ‘The Grudge” and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr and Bill Pullman. Directed as well by Takashi Shimizu, it will be interesting to see if the American version (with the requisite American-sized special effects budget) will have the same disquieting unease that has made the ‘Ju-On’ movies so successful.