2004’s “The Grudge” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar – a creepy ghost story set in Japan – scared American audiences to the tune of (according to imdb.com) just over $110,000,000 in ticket sales. “The Grudge”, however, is actually a remake of the 2002 Japanese horror film, “Ju-on (The Grudge)” So, let’s look at the original movie that terrified our friends across the Pacific Ocean back in 2002.
(For other scary movies featured this month, you can link to slideshows of the first seven films, films from eight to fourteen, and films from fifteen to twenty-one, “Event Horizon” (1997), “Ringu” (1998), “Audition” (1999), and “28 Days Later…” (2002))
“Ju-on (The Grudge)” (2002) 4 / 5 stars – Director Takashi Shimizu guided “Ju-on (The Grudge)” and “The Grudge”, and therefore, not by coincidence, both movies follow the same basic story, but you’ll find some noticeable differences – especially the film’s structure – along the way.
Even if you’ve already experienced “The Grudge”, I still recommend “Ju-on” for its eerie effectiveness and terrific storytelling.
For Rika (Megumi Okina), her story begins with an assignment.
This cute and thoughtful young woman volunteers at a local social welfare center, and her boss sends her to the Tonkunaga home to check on an elderly woman named Sachie (Chikako Isomura).
This, however, is when the pleasantries quickly end.
With clutter and garbage laying everywhere, this, otherwise, comfortable two-story house looks like a rat trap.
Rika finds Sachie, but she is despondent and isn’t really communicating.
While hearing some noises upstairs, Rika unexpectedly finds a black cat and a strange little boy named Toshio (Yuya Ozeki).
At this point, the film owns all the makings of a straight-up ghost story, but Shimizu makes fascinating decisions with his own screenplay.
He introduces several other players and presents them in a non-linear format.
Shimizu’s film shifts back and forth in time.
Not unlike “Pulp Fiction” (1994), the time shifts successfully confuse, but by end of the picture, the various stories or chapters piece themselves together.
No matter what time period in which we find ourselves, all the signficant characters have one thing in common: every person is tied to the infamous house in some way.
A young couple, Katsuya and Kazumi Tokunaga (Kanji Tsuda, Suri Matsuda), live in the house and take care of Sachie.
Hitomi (Misaki Ito) is Katsuya’s sister and voices her concerns about (her mother) Sachie’s health.
Yuji Toyama (Yoji Tanaka) – a police investigator who worked on a horrific case at the house years ago – is dragged back into the fray, and even his daughter, Izumi (Misa Uehara), finds herself caught in the twisted web as well.
Unfortunately, when tied to the house, one is also linked to the spirits which inhabit it.
These disturbing ghosts don’t play by your basic “haunted house rules”, including one who utters ghastly and guttural noises before it strikes.
(As a side note, I find theses specific noises extremely difficult to shake.)
“Ju-on (The Grudge)” successfully delivers plenty of skin-crawling moments, and you’ll quickly discover the unearthly adversaries aren’t looking to make friends.
Then again, when the film’s opening describes the grudge as “the curse of one who dies in the grip of a powerful rage”, you must figure Casper the Friendly Ghost absolutely will not make an appearance.
“Ju-on (The Grudge)” is available on DVD and is rated R. It contains adult situations, disturbing imagery and violence.