There was a point in time when it seemed like Hollywood was just going to start remaking Japanese horror films instead of thinking up their own stuff. One of the more popular examples is 2004 film The Grudge, which is actually based off of a 2002 film Ju-On: The Grudge. The Ju-On series consists of five other films other than this one, but this is the more popular one, and the only one I will be reviewing as of right now. Ju-On is a strange, startlingly slow, and occasionally boring example of J-Horror that may not really be everyone’s cup of tea.
When a volunteer house keeper, Rika (Megumi Okina), begins work for an elderly woman in a house with a violent past, she never thought she would be stepping into a world full of horror and death. Other than Rika, a handful of other people have been inside the house, which condemns them to the vengeance of two spirits inhabiting the house that were brutally murdered. One by one, the people who have associated themselves with the house begin being stalked and tormented by these spirits before they are ultimately killed. No one who has been in the house can solve the mystery before it is too late.
The narrative of Ju-On: The Grudge is not like the American versions, despite both versions being directed by Takashi Shimizu. The Japanese version is strange, in that the story is told in episodic segments that are presented out of order. I didn’t expect this to happen at first, so I was completely lost for a little bit before I figured out that the order was completely messed up. Once I caught on, things began making sense and I started to have more fun with the film. This is actually a lot more difficult to piece together than a film like Pulp Fiction, because there are random jumps in time that are never explained and really forces the viewer to be paying attention to the timeline to keep with the pace.
In terms of scare factor, well maybe I’m being a wuss here, but these movies have always freaked me out more than any other horror film. This is my first time seeing the Japanese version, but the American ones were not bad at all. Still, needing to sit through a movie with my two worst enemies (the two spirits) was fun. The sounds and movements of these ghosts are haunting, and made me not look forward to closing my eyes to go to sleep that night. I would be lying if I said I didn’t glance over at my stairs to check to see if there were any bloodshot eyes staring at me. The fact that these things just appear without any warning and mentally torment you until they kill you is way more than enough to make my skin crawl.
That being said, there is a whole lot of nothing that happens in this movie. The scenes of dialogue or plot and character development are really not that special at all. The characters are pretty dull and aren’t memorable at all. The parts of the movie that are most enjoyable are when the movie tries to scare us, and that seems to work 95% of the time. Unfortunately, this is a 93 minute long movie, and it can’t all be scares. There has to be something of a plot, but this one is confusing and just plain boring. That’s really a lot of points taken off of Ju-On to the point where the whole experience is pretty much ruined.
Ju-On: The Grudge will bore many a people, that is a fact. A fact that has been strengthened with how bored I was during a large portion of the movie. I still can’t deny how freaky and nerve wracking this movie can be. If it only kept a consistent level of horror and dread throughout the whole thing, I would consider this one of my favorite horror films of all time. Unfortunately, it is bogged down by a confusing story and characters who really don’t mean a thing. This is an important film for the genre, but it really isn’t the awesome film that a lot of people say that it is.