This will be a mostly spoiler free review because I want people to actually see this movie so I don’t want to give too much away about it. Ju-On: The Grudge is the original Japanese horror movie that spawned all of The Grudge movies here. You know, the really bad ones with Sarah Michelle Gellar being the awkward American in Japan cliche? She goes to a house and it’s cursed and then she’s cursed and blah blah blah people die? There were two theatrical versions and then I believe the third was straight to DVD but I can’t remember. I know I saw it on DVD but it was so awful I don’t really care to look it up nor can I remember that much about it, other than Marina Sirtis was in it. I only remember that because she played Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was something memorable for me cause I’m a Trekkie even if the role wasn’t that awesome for her.
The movie is very similar to the American one, basically the same plot. The Japanese one is handled a lot better and in a far more eerie way than the American one. I have mentioned before in other articles and lists that this one is better. That it’s also one of my favorite horror movies. A few nights ago I watched it yet again with a friend who hadn’t seen it yet, and it reminded me just how good it actually was.
American Horror has this great need to spell everything out for everyone and dumb everything down. Though the Japanese version does raise some questions, I think not knowing the answers is the more scary part. Not that this formula of asking questions without answering them always works (because it doesn’t) and A Tale Of Two Sisters, despite being eerie as hell, also confused the shit out of me for a while, with Ju-On the formula is spot on.
The movie starts with “Rika” and she is shown going to an Elderly Care Facility of some sort. She is asked to check in on a woman at a home, a recent client. She is just a volunteer and is unsure about going because she doesn’t seem like a regularly trained professional but goes anyway. She finds an elderly woman there named Sachie who is more or less catatonic. She also finds the house is a total mess and starts to clean up after taking care of the woman who doesn’t respond much to anything Rika does. Upon cleaning the home she finds a cat and a small boy and doesn’t understand where they came from. She also hears a lot of weird noises and such, as you would expect and eventually has a run in with Kayako.
Then the story switches, it backtracks, it goes into what happened before that at the house. Who the family is that lives there, what happened to them. It back tracks to the sister of the man in the house, Katsuya, and what happened to her after just visiting him for an attempted dinner date. The movie goes on to connect a former detective, current detective, school girls, and other people who all visited the house and what became of them. It really does a very good job of showing that once you enter the house you just cannot escape Kayako and it does it in a far more chilling and suspenseful way than the American version does it.
As I said, I won’t give anything away because I like the ending and what happens, but I will say that it’s miles above the American version and people should give this a try. I know that some people shy away from Japanese movies because of the subtitles (I actually like subtitles) but if it’s really that bad you can find the dubbed version pretty easily (even if I personally think the dubbing is awful after listening to it once and going back to subtitles). The movie will give you a nice healthy dose of paranoia, like you are being watched by something. It’s not insanely terrifying, I would say, but it is some Japanese horror at its best and I would highly recommend this one. Especially as an introduction into Asian horror, if you’ve been burned by how awful the remakes have been.