"Ju-On: The Grudge"
Unless you've been living
under a rock for the last several months with absolutely no outside
contact (and by "outside contact" I include "Entertainment
Weekly" and pretty much any television channel), you've already
come in contact with Sarah Michelle Gellar trying to Buffy her way
through the remake of "Ju-On: The Grudge."
And yes, it's a remake.
That thing sitting on your shelves from Lions Gate, labeled "Ju-On",
is the original. And if the DVD menu is any indication, we
are in for one seriously wild ride.
It's Japanese horror at its most alarming and most confusing, proving
conclusively that the Japanese truly know their stuff.
I'm serious about that DVD menu. It's a repeating thirty second
sequence that'll actually recap (once you've seen it) important
events. Not only that, it's also incredibly creepy. The
Japanese have a serious talent when it comes to atmosphere in their
horror, and love to emphasize the believability of horror. Let's
face it, folks...anyone who's heard or been part of a ghost story
could very well be on the bad end of "Ju-On: The Grudge."
Better still, quoth the IMDB, the "Ju-On" on your
shelves right now is actually part of a franchise--this one's actually
part three of five.
You're watching the Japanese equivalent of Nightmare on Elm Street,
So what we have here is the story of the victims of Ju-On, the Japanese
phrase for the curse that apparently takes effect when someone dies
enraged. We follow a character named Rika around, a volunteer
with the Social Welfare Center who finds herself roped into handling
a case at a house where several people recently died, and one more
recently went missing. It's up to Rika to discover the story
behind the house, the events that went on inside, while trying her
best to avoid falling prey to the Ju-On.
You will notice more than a few similarities between the American
version, "The Grudge," and the Japanese "Ju-On."
By now for many of you it may well be too late, but I do recommend
that you see the Japanese version first before seeing the American
remake. The two exist on such different overall planes that they
are almost (but not quite) different movies.
When I said earlier that Sarah Michelle Gellar was trying to "Buffy"
her way through the movie, I wasn't kidding. She was playing
it, in fact it was probably written with her in mind, like an action
star. You'll notice that Gellar's character, as opposed to
Rika, is much more action-oriented. Rika, on the other hand,
reacts to things in a more deliberate fashion. Things emerge
with much less abruptness (compare the first two times the little
boy crops up), and Rika is much more quick to involve others while
Gellar takes her own initiative.
This is a clear terminator between American and Japanese filmmaking.
American filmmaking tends to spend much less time building
suspense and atmosphere in favor of force, violence and action,
while the converse is true of Japanese cinema, which by and large
puts much more investment on building suspense and atmosphere, letting
it pay off with select shocking moments. Notice also the extreme
differences in use of special effects, especially CG, in the first
appearance of what I can only guess is the Ju-On's embodiment. Even
the scene breaks should give one pause.
But frankly, that's just me being a film egomaniac. You're
almost certainly going to get your share of thrills out of "Ju-On,"
even if it's not what you're used to. No one builds suspense
like the Japanese--not even the greats like Hitchcock. It's
a cultural difference; the Japanese have a culturally ingrained
patience that allows them to focus on the long term, so building
ten or fifteen minutes worth of suspense is a drop in the bucket.
This means, of course, you need to pay very close attention
to the film--little details that turn out to be terribly important
can just go darting by in the corner of the frame, just past your
notice, unless you're watching like a hawk.
The ending is a real barnburner, and really ties the rest of the
movie together nicely. Check out the killer momentary shot
at 1:23:40...not exactly unexpected, but still nicely done.
The special features include yet another killer menu sequence along
with a theatrical trailer, a behind the scenes featurette, cast
and crew interviews, and deleted scenes. Plus, we get trailers
for "Dagon" and "Undead." Frankly, it's
bizarre, because "Dagon" was released back in 2002. By
now it's been on the general releases of every video store in the
United States. "Undead," on the other hand, just
All in all, "Ju-On: The Grudge" is going to be a
real pulse-pounder for you, even if it takes some getting used to.
Ju-On: The Grudge
Megumi Okina ....
Sachie, Katsuya's mother
GRADE: 4 stars ****