Ju-On: The Grudge 呪怨 (2002)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: N/A
RT Audiences Rating: 6.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

JU-ON: THE GRUDGE 呪怨 (2002) - Takashi Shimizu

It is said that when an individual dies with a deep and burning rage, the Ju-On curse is born. The curse gathers in the place where that individual has died (a house) and will repeat itself, each time a brand new cycle of death. The curse exhibits and exposes itself towards any who encounters it, such as entering the house or being in contact with someone who is already cursed. As each victim dies, the curse becomes reborn, and spreads throughout the world.

Despite The Grudge being the third entry in the series, it is the first full-length feature film to be released in theaters. The film is divided into six vignettes, connected to each other but presented out of sequence. Even though each section has its own driving character, the main protagonist of the film is Rika, a volunteer social worker asked to care for an elderly lady who lives in the haunted house.

Ju-On: The Grudge is one of the most famous Japanese horror films of all time, often compared to Ringu for its scare factor. It is most known for its iconic ghost figure, a woman with pale white skin and long black hair, and a naked boy who wanders around randomly. It may sound awkward or even corny on the idea of a boy running around, but believe me, the idea of a child suddenly appearing here and there is more eerie than you think. If you look up "Japanese horror movie" under Google, you will find a plethora of images from Ju-On. Even though the pale female ghost image is common among other asian movies, the ghost from Ju-On is notorious for the croaking death rattle it makes while it crawls on the floor. Probably it is one of the most famous sound effects in the asian horror industry and is one of the scariest moments in the entire film.

Ju-On is utterly spooky, with one of the most uncanny atmospheres ever in a horror film. Similar to the vengeful spirit of the house, the film waits in the darkness for the right moment to scare the audience. For us, we know something creepy will happen. However, the tone becomes tense rapidly due to the movie having no music queues whatsoever to prepare us for what sinister scares will come. Although the idea of the curse is one-dimensional, it is certainly frightening, because once the curse grabs hold of you, it never lets go. This means you enter the house, the ghost will follow you wherever you go. Worse, these ghosts can break the laws of physics and logic and can appear from anywhere -- from underneath your working desk to the inside of your jacket. Once the ghost appears, its terrifying face will be burned into your retinas, even worse when the death rattle sound effect kicks in.

In spite of Ju-On being one of the scariest horror films, its story and narrative is severely troubled. Instead of a movie with a beginning, middle, and end, Ju-On is presented more like a mini television show, with each vignette being a short episode. Since the episodic chapters are not presented chronologically, the audience is then forced to really pay attention to details such as the date and the characters' names, in case they get mentioned again in the future chapters. As a result, the movie easily makes the audience lost in confusion.

As scary as it can get, Ju-On is often criticized in the horror industry for being anti-Hollywood, specifically on how the characters react to the scares. However, this is a constant style that asian cinema takes and inevitably, it is a unique aesthetic approach, avoiding music queues, using freakish sound effects, and taking advantage of "silence" to build its atmosphere and dread. The reasoning of the haunting is indeed very plain, since the ghosts attack and kill people for no apparent reason. You die if you are unlucky. There is no sincere reason why the spirits want to take present day lives away. It is not like they were responsible for the deaths of the spirits. As weak as it sounds, it is the very conceptual idea of the curse that is scary, the idea that no soul is safe once the curse breaks out, the idea that the curse will never go away, but only grow bigger and bigger.

Truly, Ju-On will have you demonstrate the meaning of "fear" all over again. You will check your closet twice before you sleep. You will check the bed itself as well. You will be afraid of the dark again, and you will have nightmares.

In conclusion, Ju-On: The Grudge is genuinely a terrifying movie. Despite it having certain problems in its technical gears such as screenplay, acting, and pure execution, the movie is undoubtedly unsettling and creates a whole new meaning of "spooky." Is it a good movie in general? Not really. Is it a good scare? You bet your pants it is, because once you watch Ju-On, its scares and frightening images will never let you go, almost like the curse itself.


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