Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Director: Shimizu Takashi
Writing Credits: Shimizu Takashi
Cast: Ichikawa Yui, Ito Misaki, Okina Megumi, Uehara Misa
Year released: 2003
Runtime: 92 min
Rating: * (out of four stars)
The Asian horror movie genre has been milked dry - and Ju-On is a good example of this. Marketed as the scariest horror film of all time, with a glowing endorsement from Sam Raimi (of Spiderman fame), and with a relatively impressive trailer, it seemed like Ju-On is destined for great things. Unfortunately, Ju-On isn't even a scary movie, largely due to the way the narrative is structured. Add to that the fact that its scary moments are borrowed from a handful of other horror films, and telegraphed way too early time and again, and what you get is a rehash that simply isn't worth the time or effort.
The film begins when a social worker called Rika (Okina Megumi) is tasked to pay a house call on an elderly woman. When she arrives at the house, she finds that it is in severe disarray, and the elderly woman seems to be in a state of shock. Hearing strange sounds emanating from the upper level of the house, Rika decides to investigate, only to discover the terrible secret of the house - its occupants aren't all human, and the spirits that reside within are of a rather malevolent nature.
The story continues to unfold in similar style, moving from one character to another in a non-chronological order, with each vignette concluding in a similar manner, except, of course, the final one, which reveals the secret behind the haunted house - sort of. Unfortunately, the decision to chop the narrative up into so many pieces is an unwise one. Not only does it rob the film of any tension, the non-chronological order also means that the fates of several characters were exposed even before their vignettes were shown. The film also spends too much time concentrating on non-essential characters whose fates will not resonate with the audience. What's worse, the trailer of Ju-On inexplicably reveals almost every single boo! moment in the film, which is inexcusable especially for films in the horror genre.
Director-writer Shimizu Takashi was the writer of classic Japanese horror film The Ring, and it's quite clear that he borrowed horror elements from The Ring and other Japanese horror films. There isn't a single original scare in Ju-On, and there's an overwhelming sense of been there, done that. It also seems as though Takashi was trying to spice up matters by trying to go for a complex storyline, but this is also becomes a glaring fault of Ju-On. The plot of Ju-On is confusing and convoluted, and fails to explain itself even in the denouement, which is frustrating to say the least. The final reel exposes a Sadako-like scare (but not really - although to speak more of the conclusion is to give the whole story away), and is one of the more unexpected moments in the film. Unfortunately, it's not enough to redeem the rest of the movie, and I would even venture to say that many audiences would have ceased to care by then. I know I was.
Final Word: The marketing of Ju-On had outdone itself, and is likely to set expectations so high that this run-of-the-mill horror film would not be able to satisfy most audiences.