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Juon: The Grudge

In 2000, writer-director Takashi Shimizu was responsible for two made for video horror films, JU-ON and JU-ON II. The films garnered a considerable following and, after directing the second TOMIE sequel (TOMIE: REBIRTH) in 2001, Shimizu decided to remake the films for a theatrical release in 2002. The result, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE to give it its full title, supposedly opened in a single cinema before becoming a great success, inevitably leading to comparisons with Hideo Nakatas RING (1998). Indeed, the comparison seems just given the quick-fire release of JU-ON: THE GRUDGE II (2003), which has recently been released in Japan and brings the series up to four films in three years. Not only that, but JU-ON looks like being the latest Japanese film to be bought up for an American remake (Sam Raimi is rumoured to be involved). And as if that wasnt enough, one of the films two credited creative consultants is RING screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi (the other being one of my favourite Japanese directors, Kiyoshi Kurosawa). Given all of the above, one sits down to watch the film with higher than usual expectations...

Volunteer social worker Rika Nishina (Megumi Okina, also the star of the original JU-ON) becomes involved with a mysterious case... The Tokunaga household includes an elderly woman called Sachie. When the social worker assigned to her fails to report in to work, Rika is asked to visit Sachie in his stead. When she arrives at the house, Sachie behaves strangely. Rika finds a young boy upstairs, shut in a closet. She reports to her superiors on the phone, then witnesses something strange happening to the old woman. Next, we are introduced to Sachies son and daughter-in-law, Katsuya and Kazumi. When Katsuya returns from work he finds Kazumi collapsed on the bed, before seeing the same little boy Rika saw. Katsuyas sister, Hitomi, arrives at the house, only to find Katsuya in a state of anxiety. She reluctantly leaves, and the film continues in this way, introducing characters and showing what happens to them, whilst gradually revealing the background to the house and the little boy.

Probably the biggest problem with the film is its episodic structure. There are six chapters in the film, each named after the main character who will feature in that chapter. Obviously, this presents difficulties in that its very hard for an audience to empathise with a character or to care about their fate when theyre only on screen for a small segment of the film. Additionally, it means that the narrative is inherently fragmented this is compounded by the fact that that narrative is weak at best, and really makes very little sense if one stops to think about it for any length of time. It is also very difficult to build any sense of tension or foreboding, as no segment is really long enough to work in such a subtle way. Having said that, there are some genuinely creepy moments the scene involving the fate of a security guard (voyeuristically viewed by both Hitomi and us the audience through a CCTV camera) is especially well-handled, if perhaps too reminiscent of the famous denouement of the original RING. There is no gore or violence in the film, and Shimizu relies solely on atmosphere and brief shots of things like the ghostly boy or a bed covered in cats too scare the audience. This will either work well or irritate, depending on the viewers personal appetite for yet more crawling, slow-moving, long-haired ghostly women and suchlike.

To say I was disappointed with the film seems a little harsh, but I cant really think of any way around it. It's attractively filmed, well acted and fairly scary, but in the end this is no RING or DARK WATER, and compared to the best of Shimizus mentor Kiyoshi Kurosawas work in the horror genre (CURE or KAIRO) it pales into insignificance. If you are simply looking for a creepy Japanese film then JU-ON is entertaining enough. If however, you want to experience more films of the caliber of RING or CURE then youll really have to look elsewhere.

Note: The two original JU-ON films are available on DVD in Japan, as is the JU-ON under review. All three are unsubtitled.

- Tom Foster



WHAT YOU SAID [VIEW]



#1 Posted by KayleighJolie on 25 November 2003 (21:32)
The first and third Ju On movies are great. Ju On 2 is mostly flashbacks of the first movie. They can be a little hard to follow and that may be because of the language barrier even though there are subtitles. I highly recommend Ju On and Ju On: The Revenge for people who like not so in-your-face horror. This is also a good one to watch if you liked the Ring.
#2 Posted by JohnShaft on 25 November 2003 (22:51)
I really enjoyed the first Ju-On (the TV movie). Though short I thought it was very well done and had a very well executed promise. Considering it was made for TV it was amazing. I just don't think the West is capable of producing original works for TV at that level now (though I'm looking forward to King's remake of the Kingdom).
I'm definitely looking forward to getting to see the rest of the Ju-On series. The Far East Horror Invasion is unstoppable at the moment, and I really look forward to seeing new movies from there way more than there Western counterparts. To me they just seem to have a fresher approach to horror. For a jaded horror fan like myself they really bring the creepiness back into the genre.
The only Western film I've seen recently (from an admittedly short catalogue of recent movies) do that has been Session 9. :shock:
#3 Posted by KayleighJolie on 25 November 2003 (23:06)
You can actually skip Ju On 2 if you want. To me it's boring because most of the movie is flashbacks from the first one. Now Ju On: The Revenge is great! Let me know what you think of it.
K
#4 Posted by DevilMan on 29 November 2003 (9:33)
I'm glad someone's seen the whole JUON series. Maybe I can get some help here?

I've been holding off watching the first JUON film (the made-for-television movie) because I didn't know what kind of order to view all three of them in. I kinda had the impression that JOUN: THE GRUDGE (the theatrical movie) was just a rehash of the first two so it might be better to watch it after the original pair. But I've also heard that THE GRUDGE is completely different (and better) so you don't even need to see the first two at all.

What's the verdict? Should I watch the theatrical movie first, then go back and watch the two made-for-tv movies? Or should I watch them in the order that they were released... JUON, then JUON 2, and then JUON: THE GRUDGE?

QUOTE Now Ju On: The Revenge is great!

What's JUON: THE REVENGE? Is that JUON 3?

QUOTE The Far East Horror Invasion is unstoppable at the moment, and I really look forward to seeing new movies from there way more than there Western counterparts. To me they just seem to have a fresher approach to horror. For a jaded horror fan like myself they really bring the creepiness back into the genre.

I agree with you there 100%, JOHN. The whole Asian "Spooks & Ghosts" genre is ever so alive and well, and refreshing. That's why that greedy ass Hollywood is snatching up all the rights to 'em. C'mon, Hollywood, can't ya come up with something new on your own?!

-Steve
#5 Posted by Carmilla on 11 February 2004 (13:39)
QUOTE Shimizu relies solely on atmosphere and brief shots of things like the ghostly boy or a bed covered in cats too scare the audience. This will either work well or irritate, depending on the viewer’s personal appetite for yet more crawling, slow-moving, long-haired ghostly women and suchlike.

I think the atmosphere worked great, and the fact that the movie works on tension rather than gore was something I appreciated. For me it worked, though I confess after reading the thread I am a bit confused. I watched a 1:10 long movie. Is that the TV version?
#6 Posted by JohnShaft on 11 February 2004 (14:51)
QUOTE Originally posted by Carmilla@Feb 11 2004, 08:39 PM
I confess after reading the thread I am a bit confused. I watched a 1:10 long movie. Is that the TV version?

Hi Carmilla.
Yes, it seems like you've seen the original TV movie (which clocks in right around an hour) as opposed to the Remake Movie (which clocks in at 90 minutes).
#7 Posted by jpc08109 on 1 April 2010 (19:21)
I can't say enough good things about this movie it scared the crap out of me, I love a good ghost story and this is one of the best. THe American version is not even half as good as the original. 5 out of 5 stars
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