Takashi Shimizu’s popular but unnecessarily prolonged Ju-on franchise began as a low-budget TV movie revolving around the murder of a young woman by her cheating husband and the strange happenings that take place in their home thereafter. The poorly received Ju-on 2 chronicled the events leading up to the first episode while the considerably more popular but equally redundant Ju-on: The Grudge observes what happens when the ghostly pestilence enters the community after a volunteer social worker, Rika (Megumi Okina), is sent to the home to look into the situation. It’s there that she encounters a frazzled granny, a black cat, and a little boy whose comings and goings (more funny than scary) are woefully anticipated by loud noises on the film’s soundtrack. The movie has its moments: though derivative of a famous deleted scene from The Exorcist, a ghost with a frightening guttural howl makes her way down stairways like a spider; and much subtler than the screeching noises that accompany everyone’s headaches is a visual stylization that mirrors a showering Rika’s feeling that more than two hands are washing her hair. But the story’s fractured timeline is perhaps more unsettling than any of the film’s hoary Ringu-style attempts to scare its audience. To Shimzu’s credit, though, his no-frills direction is refreshing in its unpretentiousness. At his best, he summons a strange disconnect between a father and a daughter when they stare at each other from different moments in time. He also means to liken the deaths in the film to a pestilence, a point that will be stressed—no doubt strenuously—in his American remake of the film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Clea DuVall. The final shot in the film is certainly evocative of this, but while countless Japanese storytellers, historians, and directors have used ghost stories and supernatural folk tales to offer a glimpse of the problems that plague their ever-evolving country, the ghostly grudges of Shimizu’s films have very little to say about the director’s contemporary culture. One could say Shimizu begrudges historical perspective in favor of pandering to a hip audience’s short-attention spans.
- Lions Gate Films
- 92 min
- Takashi Shimizu
- Takashi Shimizu
- Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara, Yui Ichikawa, Kanji Tsuda, Kayoko Shibata, Yukako Kukuri, Shuri Matsuda, Yoji Tanaka, Yuya Ozeki
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