Time: 70 Minutes
Yūrei Yanagi as Shunsuke Kobayashi
Chiaki Kuriyama as Mizuho Tamura
Hitomi Miwa as Yuki
Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki
Director: Takashi Shimizu
In a jealous rage, a man kills his wife and son in their home, and everyone who visits falls prey to a terrible curse.
I had seen the American remake of The Grudge many years ago, so I was interested in watching the original Japanese film. However, I found that Ju-on: The Grudge is actually the third film in its series. So I started with the first two Ju-on movies first, they are direct to video and I ended up watching them on YouTube. Those films clearly have their issues, but they had enough to them that it was worthwhile checking them out.
Ju-on: The Curse is not exactly a conventional horror movie. The story is split into six separate stories, each of them building upon the previous parts. Not only that, but the film jumps all over the place in time, with each segment being out of order in a way that doesn’t make immediate sense. That being said, I don’t think it would be more compelling if it was just placed in timeline order. I do like the idea of the story, with it centering around a curse that comes into existence and ties itself to a specific location which affects multiple people. That being said, it didn’t exactly start out the best. It wasn’t interesting early on, and for two thirds of its runtime it doesn’t quite work. The characters are hard to care about, there’s not much of a drive to each of these sequences, and it just felt underwhelming to watch. Ju-on was very much going for minimalist horror instead of shoving jumpscares in the audiences’ faces, and I respect that. However, the scares felt cheap and didn’t really work. At a certain point however, it really picks up. As it approaches the last third, it builds on itself and the atmosphere escalates and becomes claustrophobic. At this point, the minimalist horror actually becomes effective here. The movie is very short at 70 minutes, and while on one hand it seems like a decent length for this kind of story, it does feel abrupt with the note it decides to end on.
Takashi Shimizu is the director, and his work here is a bit of a mixed bag. This has mostly to do with the technical elements and the low budget; the cinematography is crude, the production level is poor, and the soundtrack is generic. It doesn’t help that I had to watch these first two Ju-on movies on YouTube, but if anything, this made the home video feel and aesthetic even stronger, and it felt more eerie and cursed. As a consequence of the lower budget, the visuals seem real with only a small amount of CGI. The scares don’t always work, but are simple yet effective with not much jumpscares or gore, and are stronger because of the budget limitations. Not all of the technical elements work, but it is commendable nonetheless. For a low budget straight to video release, it is actually decent.
Ju-on: The Curse has its issues for sure. The budget and direction limitations are definitely felt, much of the movie can be uninteresting, and a lot of the scares aren’t that effective. Yet there are some good aspects which do work. The low budget and limitations help to convey an eerie atmosphere, and the messy nature made it feel unsettling. I can understand people not liking it or even skipping it to go straight to The Grudge, but I am glad I checked it out at least.