with Megumi Okina, Misaki Itô, Misa Uehara
Directed and written by Takashi Shimizu
by Chad Van Wagner
Here we go again. Even since the American remake of The Ring hit paydirt in the U.S. of A, there’s been a flood of horror films coming from the East that emphasize chills over gore, and with a small handful of exceptions, they’ve been outstanding. It also means that the remake machine is snapping them up as fast as they’re made, and finding the originals can occasionally be a bit of a pain, due to the U.S. rights-holders sitting on them to keep their “secrets.”
Fortunately, Ju-On (this one is slated to be remade by Sam Raimi, by the way) is still available in VCD format here in the States, if you don’t mind digging through the Net a little. If you’re a fan of (semi) bloodless, haunted house style creepfests, Ju-On is the best film of this type in years. There’s no plot, just a premise. A Ju-on is a vengeful ghost, who doesn’t seem real picky about who it takes revenge on. Which means that a lot of innocent people get killed… which makes more Ju-ons. The film is simply a document of the spread of this malignancy, with no concern for exposition, loose ends, or (in one particularly mind-bending twist involving a father and daughter), the laws of time and space.
Director Shimizu Takashi relies solely on execution (as opposed to storyline) to make Ju-On work, and he succeeds admirably. All the old standbys are there: Ghosts under the bed, in the attic, even in bed with you. With the element of surprise, an excellent soundtrack, and just plain hair-raising stares from the avenging Ju-ons, this film quite literally made me sling Diet Pepsi all over my couch more than once (it needed cleaning anyway). I don’t scare easily, but after this, I had to leave my apartment for a while to let the evil in my living room dissipate a little.
A word of warning, however: When looking for a copy, make sure you don’t accidentally get the original direct-to-video series that inspired this version (it can get a little confusing, since they were all directed by the same guy). If there isn’t a blue-skinned little boy staring at you accusingly from the cover, it’s not the theatrical release (the video versions are actually very good, but not the place to start). I can only imagine what the man responsible for the Evil Dead series will do with this.