Ju-On (The Grudge) (2000)
Japan (dir. Takashi Shimizu)
Cast: Yûrei Yanagi, Chiaki Kuriyama, Hitomi Miwa, Asumi Miwa, Yoriko Douguchi, Taro Suwa
Synopsis: Jealous of his wife’s love for another man, a teacher from her high school, a man brutally kills his wife and young son. The story goes on to tell of the new tenants of the house and what they experience, and an investigation by two police officers into why so many people are disappearing
Review: “Ju-On” is a mildly incoherent film that connects several seemingly unrelated stories into a single lengthy tale of a vengeful ghost spreading their vengeance on, well, pretty much anybody and everybody. Although I’ll admit it’s a fairly scary film which effectively uses copious amounts of tension and suspense to create fear, the interconnected stories (or in some case, hardly connected at all) seem to make little or no sense. By the time you figure out who the characters are in relation to the ghost(s) or to the haunted house, you’re introduced to a new set of characters with even less of a significant relation to the original characters or to the haunting in general. The ghost is clearly indiscriminate in terms of who it haunts/kills, to the point where people who merely happen to walk by the haunted house suffer from the ghost’s wrath. Despite the fact that the storyline is convoluted with an excessive amount of characters, the film as a whole seems to work fairly well and in the end I think you are left with a relatively decent horror movie.
The movie begins with a geriatric social worker being assigned to a fairly typical case involving an elderly woman living on her own without assistance etc. The social worker arrives at the house to find it in a general state of disarray and discovers the presence of a feeble-minded old woman and what would appear to be a small child locked in the attic. Eventually it is discovered that the child is some sort of apparition and that the house was once the site of a terrible double-murder suicide. The social worker, determined to assist the small child she believes is real, is eventually overtaken by some sort of dark force (likely the vengeful ghost who is running the haunted house) and the vignette abruptly ends. We flash backwards in time to a young couple caring for and elderly relative in the same house (elderly woman is the same as before). A similar pattern occurs where some dark force combined with the appearance of the ghost child overtakes the house and destroys the young couple. Now here is where the storyline starts to span out into a completely random direction. The sister of the husband who lived in the house with his wife and elderly relative begins calling her brother to determine his whereabouts. After visiting the house without finding any information of use, she returns to her condo (which happens to be the same building where she works (?)) and experiences an experience of a haunting. She reports it to the condo security team and heads back home. The malevolent spirit overtakes and presumably kills the security guard and then makes its way to the sister. In what is likely the best scene in the film, the sister sees her brother (who is by this point presumed dead by the audience but not by the sister of course) standing outside her condo door. She answers the door only to find…. nothing. Confused, she heads to bed only to find the ghost of the murdered woman from her brother’s house in bed with her. She is eventually sucked under the bed sheets and basically vanishes. This is a delightful scene, replicated very accurately in the remake, but not without the same amount of carefully placed tension and suspense in this original film.
I won’t delve into too much more plot details, but suffice it to say that at this point the ghost pretty much spreads its vengeance unspecifically and with a bit more gusto. The curse that would appear to be carried along with the ghost spreads to a school girl and her friends and also to two police officers investigating the missing persons cases associated with the haunted house. As the curse spreads, the ghost only becomes more violent and more apparent. Victims see horrific visions of previous visions and barricade themselves inside their homes until they are driven mad. And of course, more disappearances ensue. By this point, it becomes unclear when these events are occurring in relation to the time frame of the movie. The film liberally travels backwards and forwards in the storyline making it difficult, but not impossible, to follow along with. The cause for the haunting is explained as being the result of the double murder suicide which results due to a wife’s affair with a teacher and the possibility of the husband’s child being illegitimate. There is a cultural reason for the haunting stemming from the idea of a vengeful person dying and coming back as a ghost with a blood-thirsty grudge resulting from the fact that they died in a state of extreme anger with a heightened need for retribution. This sort of reasoning behind a haunting is a familiar one associated with many Asian horror films which involve a ghost or a haunting (i.e. “The Ring”, “Shutter”, etc.) An interesting movie to check out if you are a fan of Asian horror films, otherwise you may not be too impressed with seeing a creepy looking, pale Japanese boy making a throaty frog-like noise in an attempt to scare you.