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Reviewed by Mark Finn, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Takahashi Hiroshi
Genre:   Horror
Review Date:   September 07, 2004
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

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 there.

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