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Ju-on: the Grudge

Joe Sheppard



Showing at the Paramount during the World Cinema Showcase: Friday April 2 at 10:15p.m., Monday April 5 at 4:15p.m. and Tuesday April 6 at 8:15p.m.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: there’s this freaky house! And it’s haunted by some evil spirit chick that goes around killing anyone she meets because of her painful death! (Or, as the translation says, because she died ‘in the grip of powerful rage’.)
True, the premise for the Grudge doesn’t sound particularly innovative, however, this is simply one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a while. With hardly any special effects and not a drop of blood until the final scene, the Grudge relies on brains rather than gimmicks to elicit screams and tension. And so there are lots of camera shots peering down from on top of doors, a dynamic score and some bone-chilling sound effects, and some simple but striking images and set pieces. Much of the really freaky parts are glimpsed briefly in mirrors or behind the backs of the actors, or else achieved with eerie makeup and sinister camera movements that even a child could execute.
Compared to the Western tradition of horror, the Japanese school is a breath of fresh air. There isn’t as much emphasis on conventions I find, since the scariest shit is always unpredictable, illogical, unknown. Thankfully there isn’t a silly way of easily vanquishing this menace (fire! Crosses! Silver bullets!, et bloody cetera), which has always been an insufferable plot device. It’s very much like the Ring in finding original and bizarre ways to scare the bejesus out of people. The terror here is also contagious, as the grudge is held against most of the people the previous victims came across. Skipping back and forth in time, the narrative links all of the poor, scared, now-dead people back to one instance, where Rika, a social worker, tries to do a good turn by visiting the parents of a problem child at school. How was she to know that mummy and daddy were psychopaths?
Apparently this is the second version of the movie, and Shimizu has already made another Japanese sequel and has a US version in post-production, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. I wouldn’t bother waiting for them, because Shimizu has already got it right with Ju-on: the Grudge.
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
(Japan, 2002)