Ju-on: The Grudge

12/08/2017 08:08

Film: Ju-on: The Grudge

Year: 2002

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Writer: Takashi Shimizu

Starring: Megumi Okina, Misaki Itô and Misa Uehara



This film I actually saw pretty soon after seeing the American remake. I did the same thing with The Ring and Ringu. I will admit though, I didn’t really care for this one and it was the out of order timeline that messed with it. That is something I’ve gotten over as I started to understand the movies in this series. The synopsis here though is a mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.

We start off first learning about what a Ju-on is. Sometimes when someone dies a violent death, a curse is placed on the house that will follow anyone who enters. It then shifts to grainy looking footage. We see Takeo Saeki (Takashi Matsuyama) gnawing on his finger nails. There is blood on him. He grabs a cat violently. We then see him taping a picture back together. When he turns it around, the woman in it doesn’t have a face as that part is still missing.

The film doesn’t follow a straight narrative and will jump around. It is told in six different chapters, each following a different character. The first chapter follows Rika Nishina (Megumi Okina). She is a volunteer at a Social Welfare Center. Hirohashi (Chikara Ishikura) is on the phone when she comes in, but breaks away to speak with her. He asks if she will be willing to go to a house to check on a client. The person that was assigned her took the key and then never came back. She reluctantly agrees, stating that she is just a volunteer.

She goes inside to find the place is trashed. There is a window of a bedroom door where she sees something running their fingers over it. It is an elderly woman by the name of Ms. Sachie (Chikako Isomura). She doesn’t talk much, but Rika gives her a sponge bath and then gets her to bed. She then cleans the rest of the place up. She makes a call to Hirohashi to tell him no one has come back yet. Hitomi Tokunaga (Misaki Itô) calls asking for her brother, Katsuya (Kanji Tsuda) as well as after their mother. Rika then goes upstairs to finish cleaning. In a bedroom she finds a closet door that is closed and taped shut. She hears a cat meowing and opens it up. There is a cat as well as a little boy locked inside. His name is Toshio (Yuya Ozeki).

When she goes back down stairs, she sees Sachie laying down with a dark entity over her. It looks over at her and we see its eyes. The movie then gives us our story over the next 4 chapters, with the final one showing the truth behind everything. They follow Kazumi (Shuri Matsuda) who is married to Katsuya. What happens to his sister of Hitomi. There’s a chapter where the police investigating what happened, one being Nakagawa Keiji (Hirokazu Inoue), and reaching out to the detective who was originally working the Saeki case. This detective is Yûji Tôyama (Yoji Tanaka) and the curse also involves his daughter. Her name is Izumi (Misa Uehara). With the final chapter taking the name of Kayako (Takako Fuji), Takeo’s wife, and showing how all of this fits together.

Now that is where I want to shift over to break down this movie. I’ve already said a bit about how I got confused the first time that I saw this movie due to the non-linear timeline. I still got confused this time around and I’m pretty sure this is like the 4th time I’ve seen it. There are some things that are bit fuzzy for me, but I’m going to try to break them down a bit.

Something that I noticed for this version, as this is a bigger budget remake of the writer/director Takashi Shimizu’s previous take of Ju-on: The Curse. That was more of a TV movie and it felt like that. This version doesn’t give us why Takeo kills his wife. We know he went into a rage and wiped his whole family out. I’m not sure if Shimizu assumed that everyone seeing this saw that previous movie and that is the explanation, but I just know it is missing from this movie from what I gathered.

Yûji was the detective as I said who was investigating the original crime. There wasn’t a lot to look into, but whatever happened messed with him and he retires from the force. Now it appears when he is reached out to by Nakagawa, this is when Rika discovered what happened to Katsuya and Kazumi. This explains why the house is in disarray when she arrives. Where I get confused though is how Rika’s friend of Mariko (Kayoko Shibata) could have Toshio as a student since she is a teacher. By the time this goes down, he should have already been dead. Aside from that, I get what they’re doing and I think it is an interesting way to present all of this.

I feel that this movie is also playing with time travel or at least using time as a flat circle. There is a moment where Yûji is trying to do something to the house and he sees his daughter as Izumi the teen. There’s another moment where she sees her father as well in the house later on. This is kind of an interesting thing to play with her since both of them are touched by it and it ruining their lives as well.

The last thing before I move to another aspect is that I think the curse is a bit loose here. It does follow some of the people involved, but not everyone. The rules don’t seem to be too concrete and really are just picking and choosing for certain set pieces. It is terrifying though that someone could be touched and then haunted for just going into a house like we get here. I do think this series later on plays with some interesting concepts with this idea.

Next I want to shift this over to the acting. What is interesting here though is that I don’t necessarily know if we have a true lead as so many characters get their spot. Okina was good as this person who really is just wrong place at the wrong time. She has a good look though and I like what happens with her to start and close this film out. Itô has one of the creepiest things to happen to her of anyone. Uehara is solid along with Tsuda, Shibata, Matsuda and the rest of the cast. Shout outs to Ozeki, Fuji and even Matsuyama. The first two really get to do some creepy things and Takeo has a nice bookend in this movie.

I’ll take this over to the effects next. They really don’t have a lot of them in this movie and they do quite a bit with practical. Fuji really helps here with how creepy she is when she is crawling. Ozeki gets props from with as well. I do like the make-up to have them wearing black eyeliner and have their skin really whitened up. There are some others that are done up as well which worked. There is some CGI that really doesn’t hold up for me. I do have to point that out. I also really like the cinematography here. They do a really good job at playing with the frame and having things that the characters don’t see, but we do. That is something that really makes me uncomfortable.

Finally I’ll go over the soundtrack and sound design of the movie. The score didn’t really stand out, but it fit for what was needed. I did notice it at some of the more tense scenes, which works for me. What really is creepy is the sound that Kayako makes. I’ve heard that was done with a comb and running something along the teeth. The reason she makes that sound is both sad and wonderful for how it plays out for sure.

Now with that said, I wasn’t very high on this movie and I’ve definitely come around to it. It has an interesting way of telling the story that can get a bit confusing, but I think the more viewings, the more it makes sense. I like some of the ideas that they’re playing with her. I do think there are some things that are bit off with the story though and some of the rules of this curse. The acting is good. The effects are as well aside from some CGI. The soundtrack is fine where the sound design gets under my skin. The cinematography is also well done. I would rate this as a good movie that is just borderline on an all-time great for me.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10