" It'll keep ya up real late at night just thinking about it. I know I did."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
'Rrrrrrrrrrrhhhh…….meeoowwww' (The sounds you will hear before the victim got killed).
A family consisting a daddy, a mummy and a sonny live happily in their house before the daddy begin suspecting that her wife is having an affair and his son is not his real son. He killed his wife and the little boy disappear mysteriously (dead I think). The man soon found dead on the street. Thus the grudge begun with the ghost of the family killing everyone that has any kind of connection with them or the house.
It seems that Asian horror films are becoming the next big hot ticket and wild craze all across our tiny planet. Why, you wonder? Well, best to my knowledge, Japanese director HIDEO NAKATA brought us RINGU (aka THE RING) some few years back with it's unique and eerie images of netherworldly supernatural creepiness. And frankly, it just hasn't been the same ever since. There were plenty of films before RINGU (the 70's YOKAI MONSTERS series springs to mind as the first notable entry) but I genuinely think THE RING made the biggest impact on modern movie going audiences around the globe. Yet all that aside for the moment, it's certainly a no-brainer that a once obscure little smattering of films only the diehardest of the diehards ever knew existed would spawn an endless plethora of wanna-be's, imitations, remakes, sequels, and legitimate contenders which would bring the Asian "Spooks & Spirits" movie genre to the horror public's big bloodshot eyes. And the most recent one to grab my attention was the Japanese motion picture, JUON: THE GRUDGE.
I suppose a confession is in order before I begin the review. I actually owned the DVD for months but for some reason I never sat down to watch it. I know, I know, it's sheer blasphemy! But all sinners can be forgiven, right? So one day, something came over me and I finally drug it out from the stack of unwatched DVD's I've amazed, blew off the dust, planted my butt on the couch, and watched it and get a freak out of it. And all I gotta say is, "DAMN! Why did I wait soooo long?!"
Just a little reminder here, JUON: THE GRUDGE is really the third JUON film to come outta Japan. Wait, hold on, if you've already seen THE GRUDGE but not the others yet, don't get all worked up. THE GRUDGE is only the big screen motion picture adaptation of the first two made-for-television movies that were simply called JUON 1 and JUON 2 (or JUON: THE CURSE 1 and 2). Fortunately for us, the same director (TAKASHI SHIMIZU) created all three (plus the new JUON 2 motion picture and the American remake) so they all have the exact same feel and similar story, and contrary to popular belief, only one actor has managed to star in all of the films and that's TAKAKO FUJI who plays the poor murdered wife, the main ghost. I guess she had the whole stair climbing thing perfected. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it. Anyway, for the SHIMIZU completist, make sure you check out TOMIE REBIRTH (the third entry in the excellent JUNJI ITO manga-turned-movie series) since it was his first feature horror movie. It should also be noted that he's worked with another Japanese horror director, KIYOSHI KUROSAWA so those films (KAIRO aka THE PULSE and KOREI aka SEANCE) should be on the "Must-See" hit list too.
Ju-on: The curse of one who dies in the grip of powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the place where the person was alive. Those who encounter it die and a new curse is born.
The movie is set up a little differently than most. It contains seperate but interconnecting individually named chapters (short 10 or 15 minute episodes) that jump back and forth from start to finish throughout the whole storyline (something you've seen before done quite well in PULP FICTION). Our story starts off with volunteer social worker Rika (played by the adorable MEGUMI OKINA from THE RED SHADOW and ST. JOHN'S WORT) doing a favor for a friend and goes to visit an elderly woman who is in need of a checkup. As it turns out, the old woman's house was previously a murder scene where a man sliced and diced his wife, his son, and the house cat. What?! Frisky can't get no love?! Well, as you can guess, these are gonna be your angry and violent ghost of the film that now haunt their former homestead.
Once in the house and finished with her nursing duties, Rika hears a mysterious sound and discovers an upstairs closet that has been completely taped shut. She proceeds to open it which in turn, unleashes the nasty tempered spirits intent to wreck havoc on the living. Whether or not they were actually held captive in the closet is never explained and honestly, I have no idea. But needless to say, the body count begins to add up once the restless spooks are up and about and the ghosts really have a jolly good time scaring their souls before taking their lives.
As expected, the old woman is the first on the chopping block and as Rika witnesses grandma's paranormal demise, she faints. Surprisingly, Rika isn't the next victim. I suppose you have to actually do more than briefly glimpse the ghosts before they decide to turn on you next. But then again, there were a-plenty of other casualties that came from far less exposure. Yet whatever the reasoning behind this might be, it's this particular encounter that sets up the rest of the film where we're shown how it all started and the chain reaction for which many a hapless mortal would meet their unearthly doom. I mean, for a lack of a better description, there's just no getting away with your life once you've been touched by their presence or unlucky enough to visit the house itself. And that's quite scary because you'll never know until it's too late if you've been chosen as the next target or a possible potential victim. It'll keep ya up real late at night just thinking about it. I know I did.
That being said, JUON: THE GRUDGE is, without a doubt, sitting right there on the pinnacle of Asian supernatural horror. I can recall vividly after seeing it in the wee hours of slumber time, I walked down my hallway and I was honestly a little worried that I just might see some ghostly pale face appear in the darkened doorway of my bedroom. And I'm a grown man, macho and hunk. That's just how powerful, potent, and lasting the movie's visuals were to me. So without further ado, my praise, admiration, and thanks goes out to TAKASHI SHIMIZU for his keen eye and clever camerawork that surely made up for any aspects of the movie that may have been found lacking in some other department.
Which brings me to this next little tidbit. From what I've previously read across the world wide web, alot, and I mean a lot of people have one single thing in common when it comes time to point out the failings of THE GRUDGE. And that's the episodic chapters that they all say just doesn't provide enough story for the characters to develop and grow onscreen. All I gotta say to that is BOOOOO! I liked the whole idea of the skewed episodes featuring various people. After all, why would you wanna know people who's going to died soon. It was a nifty change of pace, in my opinion. And granted, perhaps some might have been a tad too short but JUON: THE GRUDGE is one of those rare movies that you (the viewer) were actually more interested in what the ghosts were gonna do and pop out than what the film's mortal cast had going on with their characters. The movie was a heart stinging spookshow thrill ride geared up, jacked up, and designed for one thing and one thing only, to make you say it "OH SHIT!" (I know I did!) and force you to repeatedly change your drawers. What? You don't think so? Well, wait until Toshio (child actor YUYA OZEKI) leans in on you, drumming his fingers on his knees. Let's just see what you have then.
So, in wrapping things up, even though THE GRUDGE has already hit all of it's cinematic marks (in my opinion), I gotta make one last mention and that's concerning the female cast of the movie. What a heap of honeys the director acquired for this outting! Every delightful and perky olive-skinned sweetie that showed up, starting with MEGUMI OKINA (the main character of Rika) to her best friend Mariko (actress KAYOKO SHIBATA, my personal favorite) to the scared schoolgirl, Sachie (sexy actress CHIKAKO ISOMURA) had me gasping for air and wishing I was Japanese too. Domo, SHIMIZU-san! Domo!
Oh, before I forget, I've got a suggestion for those who haven't seen any of the JUON films yet. For what it's worth, I'd recommend watching THE GRUDGE (the first theatrical movie) before seeing the JUON television movie. Even though both flicks are so similar and so different at the same time, I felt that JUON: THE GRUDGE was a more polished product and had a greater viewing impact on me than JUON: THE CURSE. That's not by any means saying JUON 1 wasn't good. I think it might simply be better to see the big screen remake before the original tv movie, ya know.
Either way, do yourself a favor and get out there right now and watch JUON: THE GRUDGE. Don't you dare wait like I did.
Did You Know?
The ghost kid Toshio will appear to the victim just before his mother, Kayako pop out to finish the job! Talk about tag team!
Ju-on: The Gudge won the Screamfest "Crystal Skull" award in 2002 for "Best Foreign Film".
Ju-on: The Grudge has played in several important film festivals in a variety of countries including France, Germany, Australia, UK, Norway, and Canada.
There's a big budget Hollywood remake in the works starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR.
I was to scared and was busy controlling my macho in front of my friends that I failed to detect any.
The DVD? What do you expect? Unless you watched it on the television or cinema in Malaysia…hahahaha!