Friday, October 9, 2015

Month of Horror Blind Spots: Ju-On-The Grudge

I'm taking this October to finally get around to checking out those movies/genres I've neglected up until now.  I call these my horror blind spots, and it's time for me to finally give them a look. 

Warning:  this review has some pretty heavy spoilers.  You've been warned!

I suppose it's a bit misleading to say I've never seen any Asian horror before taking on this month's theme.  I've seen a couple of interesting examples such as The Host (which was awesome) and Tokyo Gore Police (which was fucking weird).  What I'd never really seen before, however, is what's traditional J-horror, or Japanese horror films known for their psychological/supernatural elements.

Tonight I fixed that by watching the 2002 movie Ju-On: The Grudge.  Written and directed by Takashi Shimizu, The Grudge is actually the third film in the Ju-On series, which I didn't find out until I'd already started watching the damn thing.  From what I can tell, viewing the first two films isn't really necessary to follow The Grudge, as the plot is fairly simple:  In the home where a man murdered his wife and child, a curse was born that kills anyone who visits the house.  The film focuses on those unfortunate enough to enter the house through a series of segments in which, spoiler alert, everyone dies.

And here in lies my issue with The Grudge.  I never really doubted that everyone in the movie was going to die.  As it turns out, this can take away suspense just as much as knowing that everyone is going to live.  All of the segments in this flick hit the same beats.  Person has contact with the house. Person is followed by ghosts of either the original family or by dead loved ones killed by the curse.  Person is then also killed by the curse.

I suppose haunted house stories have always been hit or miss for me.  I do enjoy when a movie plays on creepy elements, and The Grudge did have its moments, such as the Predator-like growling of Kayako's ghost over the phone, or the first two or three times we see her awkwardly crawl toward her prey.  But the more the movie used Kayako, the more routine it became.  Plus, during the climax, main protagonist Rika encounters Kayako three times within the span of about two minutes.  During this time, all I can think is, "Why the fuck are you still in this house?"  And then I feel like an asshole because I hate when people act like they know what they'd do in an extreme situation like that.  But still...why the fuck are you still in that house??

Anyway, I can't say there's anything actually wrong with Ju-On.  It's well shot, the actors all hit their beats well, and the story makes good use of playing with the way everyone in the movie is connected by the house.  I think my lack of enthusiasm for the movie is simply a matter of personal taste.  I'm an child of the 80s slasher genre.  I like my villains corporeal and stabby, and I like knowing that at least one person will survive the ordeal.  But I'm not giving up on the J-horror genre.  I've still got one more for this week, the 2001 movie Kairo

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