"Ju-On: The curse of one who dies in the grip of powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places that person was alive. Those who encounter it die and a new curse is born."
It's been several years since Hideo Nakata's Ringu swept Asian Box Offices ushering in the new wave of Japanese horror films. The renaissance that this movie triggered in Asia seemed to have run its course by the time Hollywood released Gore Verbinski's remake, The Ring. However, director Takashi Shimizu, has taken his V-Cinema (Japanese Straight-to-Video Market) classics Ju-On and Ju-On 2 and delivers a remake/remix/sequel with Ju-On: The Grudge that is sure to continue the genre's movement.
Having trained beneath director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Charisma, Pulse) and writer Hiroshi Takahashi (the Ringu Trilogy), Shimizu takes the classic "Onryou" (Japanese ghost story) and reinvigorates it. Ju-On: The Grudge is about a family's demise, at the hands of their Patriarch, that was filled with so much hate and rage that an unforgiving curse was placed on the home where they died. The concept is similar to another Japanese "curse" movie, but Ju-On: The Grudge one-ups Ringu's vengeful spirit and gives us an entire family of blue-skinned, black-eyed ghouls to scare us out of our wits.
Ju-On: The Grudge is separated into a series of segments that move back and forth along the film's timeline, each one eventually ending with the death of their main character. These sequences show pieces of the mystery without revealing too much by way of exposition or explanation. Failing to provide a concrete resolution only enhances the viewer's feeling of dread. With repeated viewings, the complex design of the curse reveals itself, spanning years over the course of the story.
Ju-On: The Grudge is one creepy looking film. The cinematography is very effective and creates the sense that the house itself is a character, where every dark hallway and empty room becomes a host for the curse. Even more terrifying is Toshio, the child who turns up everywhere; hiding at the top of the stairs, under tables, in your bed and even appearing inside a woman's blouse (!). He is usually the first sign of the curse, signaling that a character's doom is soon to follow. Shimizu also uses other visual and audio devices to keep the audience on the edge of its seat.
Ju-On: The Grudge is not a stand-alone film, but is actually the third in a series by the same director. The first is Ju-On (2000), followed by Ju-On 2 (2000), which similarly played as a series of connected segments about a cursed house. These original videos, highly regarded by those that have seen them, form the basis for Ju-On: The Grudge, a Theatrical remake/continuation of the earlier V-cinema films, revisiting some scenarios, while withholding some of the back-story. Shimizu even topped himself again by following up with a wholly original Theatrical sequel called, what else, Ju-On: The Grudge 2.
The DVD: Cinexus – Ju-On: The Grudge - Korean Special Edition 2-Disc Set [REGION 3/NTSC]
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The transfer is very good and the picture is quite clear even during scenes that are darker or more atmospheric.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS Digital Surround and 2 CH Stereo in Japanese with optional English, Korean or Japanese subtitles. I don't speak Japanese, but the sound effects and soundtrack were very eerie and effective. The translation was well done and the subtitles are easy to read without being distracting.
Extras: The Extras are included on the second disc and include the Original Theatrical Trailer/TV Spots, Trailers for Ju-On: The Grudge 2, Cast and Crew Bios, a series of Cast Interviews, a Behind the Scenes Featurette, some Deleted Scenes and, best of all, an Alternate Ending (!). These Extras are not subtitled, but most can still be enjoyed regardless.
Conclusion: Ju-On: The Grudge is yet another outstanding film in the genre of Japanese horror. The curse has already spread here to the States, with no less than Sam Raimi Executive Producing a US version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Bill Pullman. To Raimi's credit, he was smart enough to hire the films original creator, Takashi Shimizu to write and direct this English Language version, as well as, letting him shoot it in Japan. Whereas The Ring turned people's attention to Ringu, I would recommend viewing this DVD before the new version is released simply to savor the chills this series has brought to so many.