Ju-On (The Grudge)
Director(s): Takashi Shimizu
Writer(s): Takashi Shimizu, Bobby White (subtitles)
Starring: Megumi Okina, Takako Fuji, Yuya Ozeki
Now for a horror history lesson (mostly opinion, maybe accurate): The teen scream renaissance revival of the late 90’s was finally coming to a close. With Scream being the innovator, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legends being the imitators and Valentine being the idiots, there was now a void in the horror world that needed to be filled. Folks like me were curious like in any artistic sort of medium, what would be the next trend? Our question was answered in the form of a GIANT sledgehammer of visually scarring images burnt into our psyches from our friends in the East. We were now in the midst of what I like to call the Asian Ghost Rampage of the 2000’s. With films such as Ringu, Shutter, Dumplings and my entry for this article, Ju-On coming from various parts of Asia, America would not stand handing over the horror baton so quickly so naturally, American versions of the most popular Asian horror flicks commenced.
Although there were plenty of stinkers, I’m in the minority that didn’t mind too much that my favorite Asian horror ghost stories were now being remade with the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Pacey Witter (think about it or look it up). I’m realistic that most Americans are pretty LAZY when it comes to their movie watching. From their point of view, I understood that movies were supposed to be an escape from reality, so to give the general public a mental workout from all the reading seemed unrealistic. The strategy however, which worked on a massive scale to my surprise, was that when people realized that the American interpretations of these Asian horror flicks were SO different and genuinely creepy, people like me could chime in and recommend the Asian originals!
Ju-On like most of these Asian Ghost Rampage flicks had a visual style that was downright eerie. The music was never over – the – top, the noise itself altogether was to a minimum; most of these flicks had a very somber tone to them in order to lull you to the frequent scares. The ghosts themselves were very simplistic: take a human, cover them in a consistent color that is bright, hide their face with hair or accentuate their eyes and finally, make them contort their bodies to unbelievable positions while coming down the stairs or hallway. WHAT. THE. HELL. Here’s the part that was MOST disturbing; it wasn’t just the fact that these ghosts form Asian Ghost Rampage flicks were visually creepy from their simplicity, it was the fact that they took the most simple acts in life and made them horrifying.
In Ju-On a house in Japan is cursed with the vengeful ghosts that were murdered years ago and the film follows various characters throughout time that meet their gruesome fate at the hand of these horrifying spirits. This whole flick is a downright clinic for those who want to scare people through film. What it does brilliantly is take the arbitrary and make them so damn chilling. There are various scenes that take everyday life events that seem to mean nothing and with the addition of a supernatural presence, you end up remembering those images next time you’re alone in a room. This film exploited the simple joys of looking underneath a table, peeking under your covers as you’re lying in bed, standing next to a cabinet, etc. The ghosts themselves are just ridiculously impressionable; scary or not you WILL remember them because they’re simplistic in their looks but they have characteristics that chill you to the bone. The female ghost Kayako lets out chilling croak whenever she comes near and contorts her body wherever she goes while piercing you with wide eyes. The young boy Toshio is equally creepy as he pops up in random areas, terrorizing you with his cat calls, literally, the boy meows like a damn cat wherever he goes and it TOTALLY works on being scary as hell.
Watching this flick alone will most likely get you scared and worse, paranoid. Watching it friends will make it better but it doesn’t matter, you’ll go home and start looking around various places in your room where Toshio might be hiding so he can meow you to death while Kayako crawls over you croaking as you scream your last scream.
Just watch the flick and YOU’RE WELCOME.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.