Ju-on (Japan 2002)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/29/10
Written And Directed By: Takashi Shimizu
Cast: Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara

A pointless and depressing haunted house story featuring a lot of pretty Japanese girls who can scream extremely well. The title of the film literally translates to "grudge" and refers to the psychic energy left behind by someone who dies in a state of rage. Their vengeful spirit lingers on for eternity, and anyone who gets touched by this energy becomes cursed and dies. And so it is with Kayako, a young housewife who was brutally murdered by her jealous husband. Everyone who enters the house where this atrocity took place becomes haunted by Kayako, her creepy little boy Toshio, and the family cat. The film is actually a continuation of this event, which was previously explored in the direct-to-video version of "Ju-on" that came out in 2000.

Rika Nishima (Megumi Okina) is the first (and last) victim in the film, as she visits the house as a welfare volunteer. The film then goes back in time a few weeks to show how the current owners of the house disappeared, and then bounces back to the present when the homeowner's sister Hitomi (pretty Misaki Ito) contracts the curse. Jumping about six years into the future, police inspector Toyoma's daughter Izumi (super cute Misa Uehara) picks up the curse when she visits the house on a dare (unaware that it was the same house where her father got the curse). Ultimately, the film is just a loosely connected series of vignettes about good and innocent people becoming the unfortunate targets of spiritual wrath and dying horribly. There's nothing anyone can do about it, and the entire film is an exercise in futility and hopelessness.

The film looks good and is competently produced, but you can tell it was made on a small budget. The visual effects are cheap and unsophisticated, but the filmmakers do an excellent job of creating tension and suspense with subtle imagery, creepy sound effects, and fleeting glimpses. Most of the scares are the result of spooky atmospheric music, which is generally quite effective. Like I mentioned before, all of the actresses are extremely pretty and manage to generate a tangible sense of fear. And wow, can they scream. That seems to be a lost art in American films these days, or maybe it's no longer relevant in our jaded horror film culture. Overall, I felt it was only an average film, but it was successful enough to spawn at least one more sequel and an American remake called "The Grudge" (2004).