Ah, those wacky Japanese! They put Spider-Man into a giant robot
(with a giant sword, no less), gave us the genre of cartoon tentacle
porn, and now they are throwing out creepy, atmospheric horror
movies with absolutely no mercy.
I'm very ambivalent about Japanese culture and think that,
like religion and alcohol, it should be taken in moderation. At
the rate my heart is still pounding, I think one horror movie
per year is moderate enough.
They just don't make 'em like this over here, folks.
We're too hung up on technical effects and happy endings
to pull this kind of thing off. You need a country with a high
suicide rate to really get this dystopic with horror films.
Ju On (apparently, "The Grudge") is an
out-of-sequence, contemporary story of vengeful ghosts. Pay
close attention to the early montage because that's all the
set-up you really get. Everyone's dead, and part of the fun
comes from trying to decipher the plot in between clawing your
way backwards up over the top of your seat.
Japanese ghosts are great because, for one thing, they are
infinitely more complex and dangerous than their European counterparts.
There is no Sixth Sense-they-can't-hurt-me-they-are-just-pictures
kind of thing. According to folklore, Japanese spirits and undead
are extremely active and lethal. But you'll see for yourself.
A social worker makes a call on a family and finds the place trashed
(apparently, rubbish and clutter are horrifying to the Japanese;
personally, I've lived in worse). A comatose grandmother
is all that remains, and she is creeped out by . . . something. So
begins the chain of horror in multiple vignettes, each one jumping
around in time, to show that evil and violence never go away,
but linger, unabated. Not much of a life lesson, but hey, it's
a different culture.
This movie breaks a lot of expectations while at the same
time extolling the virtues of classic and classy horror. Not
a lot of blood and gore thrown about; instead it's atmosphere,
mood, expertly filmed sequences, and unnerving music and sounds.
You wouldn't think that so simple a movie could be so effective,
but here I am, typing this at 12:30 a.m. with no desire whatsoever
to go to sleep anytime soon.
If you are a devotee of The Ring, then you will love
Ju-On. Much in the same way that a video tape can cause
a death, the Ju-On ghosts use television monitors and
cell phones to do their dirty work. Unlike The Ring, there
is no technological bugbear to blame, but rather a good old-fashioned
revenant (look it up). Vengeance is mine, sayeth the creepy
kid with the cat.
If you aren't a big fan of The Ring, that's okay,
too. This is, hyperbole aside, one of the scariest movies I've
seen in years. Years. I'm not sure that there is anyone who
wouldn't be affected by this film on some level. You owe it
to yourself to check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you.
If the image on the movie poster disturbs you, that's about
as light-hearted as it gets. Everything else is downhill from