Tuesday, September 25, 2012

#771. Ju-On (2002)

Directed By: Takashi Shimizu

Starring: Megumi Okina, Misaki Itô, Misa Uehara

Trivia: This film was remade by the same director in 2004, as an American update

Nothing gets my heart pounding like a good, old-fashioned ghost story, and there have been some excellent films made on the subject over the years, such as The Haunting, The Shining, and Poltergeist

Yet I have to say that director Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On is easily the most frightening I’ve ever experienced. This movie flat-out scared the hell out of me!

The ghosts that make their presence known throughout Ju-On do so as the result of a curse which began with the murder of a mother and her young son, whose angry spirits hae taken shelter inside the house where they were killed. 

Rika (Megumi Okina), a social worker, is sent to the house to check on its current residents: an elderly woman and her family. What she finds instead is the boy’s ghost sitting in an upstairs closet, a discovery that kicks off a chain of events in which the dead mother and son, in a permanent state of rage, prey upon the living, traveling far and wide to spread their curse to those unfortunate few who have crossed their path.

What I found truly unsettling about Ju-On was its unpredictability. These ghosts can - and usually do - appear anywhere, at any given time. Aside from the closet, the spirit of the young boy, whose name is Toshio (Yuya Ozeki), materializes under a restaurant table, and his reflection is even seen in the front window of an office building. 
As if that’s not creepy enough, there’s a sequence where a ghost surprises someone by emerging from under their bedcovers! 

There are no safe havens in Ju-On, and this alone introduces an atmosphere that’s wholly unnerving. But the film’s most disturbing image, one I simply can’t shake, is that of a pissed-off specter crawling down the stairs, her face half-hidden behind her long, black hair, making an ungodly noise as she closes in on her victims. 

I’m no stranger to horror movies, but I have to admit this scene led to a few lights being switched on in my living room!

Presented as a series of vignettes and featuring a number of different characters, it may take more than a single viewing to understand everything that’s going on in Ju-On, but this won’t prevent it from making the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Bringing a whole new meaning to the word “spooky”, Ju-On is, without a doubt, one of the most effective horror movies of the last 15 years.

1 comment:

Jeremy Bates said...

My fiance advised me just now that this was the scariest movie she had ever seen. Damn, I have to see it because she said it was better than the American version, "The Grudge." Indeed, much better.

Thanks for the review, my friend.