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Ju-on: The Grudge
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |



Notes:

Ju-On was followed by a sequel titled Ju-on: The Grudge 2, both of which followed two television prequels. The original Ju-on was a 2000 shot-on-video television feature co-starring Chiaki Kuriyama of Kill Bill and Battle Royale fame. Takashi Shimizu directed all of 'em.
• Takashi Shimizu also directed the American remake The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar in the Rika role.
• Pale, mute Yuya Ozeki plays the role of Toshio in both Ju-on and its U.S. remake


Availability:

DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
Various extras

 
Year: 2003
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Writer: Takashi Shimizu
Cast: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara, Yui Ichikawa, Kanji Tsuda, Kayoko Shibata, Yukako Kukuri, Shuri Matsuda, Yoji Tanaka, Takashi Matsuyama, Yuya Ozeki, Takako Fuji, Chikara Ishikura, Chikako Isomura, Daisuke Honda
The Skinny: More show than substance, but also quite intriguing and full of immersive creepy atmosphere. Though it's not much more than primo fodder for a slumber party, Ju-on proves to be a sufficiently entertaining example of hyped Asian horror.
Review
by Kozo:

     There's a moment midway through Ju-on: The Grudge where pretty Hitomi (model Misaki Ito) gets freaked out, crawls into bed, and hides under the covers. Her actions are as lifesaving as a bulletproof vest made of paper, but her "hide your eyes" act sort of sums up the entire experience behind Takashi Shimizu's celebrated Japanese horror flick. The director has a fine handle on technique, and creates an effective suspense flick that should send slumber parties of teenage girls into oodles of frightened giggles. But besides that, there's not much going on here. There's an intriguing mystery in Ju-on: The Grudge, but it ultimately proves less interesting than Shimizu's textbook scary handling.
     The "grudge" referenced in the title has something to do with a vengeful spirit that's out for supreme payback. It resides in a seemingly-average house where it deals sudden creepy smackdowns on a variety of unsuspecting—and sometimes questionably intelligent—individuals. The main victim of the Grudge's bad karma is Rika (Megumi Okina), a social worker sent to take care of elderly Sachie (Chikako Isomura). She finds the house in a state of disarray, and discovers a pale child named Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) popping out of closets and generally scaring the pants out of whoever happens to wander in the home. Toshio is accompanied by another roving spirit, which is your standard ghostly female with long black hair ala every scary Asian movie made in the last decade. Together the two take out whoever crosses their path, leading to the obvious question: what gives?
     The mystery behind the pair's horror hijinks is dispensed in a variety of vignettes, each depicting how the Grudge gets ahold of its victims. Aside from Rika, there's the couple (Shuri Matsuda and Kanji Tsuda) living in the house, the cop (Yoji Tanaka) investigating the crime, his daughter Izumi (Misa Uehara), three of her school acquaintances, other social workers, even more cops, and probably even Ayumi Hamasaki, if she ever bothered to enter the cursed home. The reason behind the curse: bad stuff, which is doled out in some of the stories, usually when one of the characters is actually doing a little investigating. They investigate, and then the Grudge gets them. Otherwise, the Grudge gets people who seem to have no outward connection to it—except they happened to cross its path one day. The lesson: if you enter a house that appears messy and empty, get the hell out.
     Ultimately, what's learned is nothing too surprising or even scary. Ju-on doesn't create an elaborate web of creepy mystery like The Ring, and certainly doesn't provide the same payoff. At the same time, director Shimizu gets great mileage out of his sure-handed direction, and basically squeezes every ounce of fright out of his bare bones script that he possibly can. Shimizu gets full audience participation, as he gets the viewer's eye to search each frame looking for the expected moments of fright. Sometimes the moments are there, and sometimes they're not, and sometimes Shimizu squeezes a sudden Toshio appearance into a place people didn't expect. Effective sound design, plus the claustrophobic settings and dialogue-free acting all add to the effect. Ju-on is more-or-less a textbook example of buzzwothy Asian horror, in that it milks the usual iconography for all its worth (Girls with long black hair! Creepy pale kids! Slow-moving portents of doom!). Still, Shimizu does enough to make Ju-on an entertaining movie. Nothing about Ju-on enlightens or even affects, but you can invite some friends over, turn off the lights, and watch them squirm for ninety minutes. That's probably worth a rental to some people. (Kozo 2004)

 
image courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment
   
 
 
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