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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.07%
Worth A Look: 27.4%
Pretty Bad: 9.59%
Total Crap: 8.22%

5 reviews, 43 user ratings

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Ju-On: The Grudge
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by Brian McKay

"Ju-On . . . Ju-Off"
3 stars

Horror in cinema works for different people on different levels. What an adult would shrug off as just another dumb horror movie might keep a kid up all night cringing beneath the covers, and a movie that might freak one person out might be a crashing bore to others. For all of its creepy touches and visual flair, JU-ON lands soundly in between both ends of that spectrum.

I was discussing Ju-On with a Japanese friend the other day, and she told me that movies like that and Ringu completely freaked her out and kept her up at night. Alas, I had the exact opposite problem - staying awake through Ju-On's second act became almost as challenging as remembering how all of the characters were related to each other, or piecing together the fractured timeline of events. And while there are plenty of creepy sounds and images in Ju-On (my favorite involving a female reporter's image on a television set that suddenly warps into a distorted, screeching nightmare), it begins to feel like sound and thunder signifying not a whole hell of a lot. The other problem Ju-On contends with is the unshakeable air of staleness and familiarity about it that seems to be becoming par for the course in Asian horror movies these days. Ever since Ringu and its American remake The Ring broke into the western pop-culture consciousness a couple of years back, just about every Asian horror movie I've seen since has been a little too familiar. And since Hollywood is snatching up the rights to every semi-popular spookshow to come out of Tokyo or Hong Kong these days (Apparently we can't produce enough mediocrity in the horror genre on our own, so we have to "borrow" it from other cultures), expect a continued insurgence of remakes, most of which will probably add little value.

What we have in Ju-On is your basic haunted house story, with timeline and character arcs that jump all over the place to try and mask the fact that there really isn't a whole lot going on - besides the ghosts killing people left and right, that is. When a young social worker named Rika (Megumi Okina) is sent to a house to check up on an elderly woman because the woman's family has not been answering phone calls, she finds the place a mess, the old woman in a catatonic stupor, and the upstairs inhabited by a creepy-looking dead kid. And it's not long before that archetype of Asian horror folklore, the vengeful or tormented female spirit with long hair covering her face, makes its appearance. I'm really surprised they're still making horror movies that center around this figure over there, since they're becoming about as pedestrian and un-scary as the "Lady in White" or "La Llorona" chestnuts in our culture.

After Rika survives her initial encounter with the evil spirit, the story begins to jump around to various other characters, including one of Rika's friends, the missing family of the house, a couple of police officers, and a troubled teenage girl (I thought about looking up all of their names - but really, most of them will be dead soon after their introduction anyway, so why bother?). Anyone who comes into contact with the house pretty much ends up dead there, and if not, then the evil tends to follow them home and finish the job anyway. All of this, it is revealed, stems from a grisly slew of murders in the house years earlier in which an enraged husband and father, convinced that his wife had cheated on him and that his child was the fruit of her indiscretion, killed them both and was later found dead beside a nearby highway.

Really, that's all you need to know, and that's about all you will still know by the time the closing credits roll. In addition to being derivative of its Japanese predecessors, it also seems to borrow nuances from American classics as well. At one point, the dead kid starts talking with a vocal inflection so similar to that of the kid from The Shining that I half-expected him to start talking with his index finger and saying things like Danny ima kono ni arimasen, Mrs. Torrance-san.

So, perhaps for the easily unsettled or those uninitiated into the world of Asian horror movies, JU-ON might deliver a satisfactory ammount of scares and jumpiness. Otherwise, expect a few really creepy moments sprinkled over an hour and a half of dreadfully familiar territory. Since I recognized most of the scenes from this film in the trailer for the upcoming Sarah Michelle Gellar remake THE GRUDGE, I expect it to be as pointless as Gus Van Sant's remake of PSYCHO. You may want to keep an eye out for the inevitable porno spinoff, however, which will likely go by the same title, save for the additional appendage of "-FUCK"

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/13/04 11:55:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/27/15 brian Hoped this was better than dull US version. Not. 2 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Incomprehensible snoozefest.2 hours of meowing ghost boy and groany, hairy ghost woman. Zzz 2 stars
2/16/07 Axel Leos A supreme example of Japanese horror... 5 stars
10/01/06 poker gambling 1 stars
8/08/06 K.Sear I realy enjoyed this movie but have not seen the original V-cinema version. I will though. 5 stars
10/28/05 HORROR FREAK Im a BIG HORROR FREAK and i have not found a movie that has really made me shit my self! 3 stars
8/14/05 Charlene Javier Hard to understand. 3 stars
7/22/05 Jordan okay I hated this movie USA version is better and has good graphics 1 stars
6/01/05 Indrid Cold Pretty good. Acheiving even moderate creepiness makes it above average. 4 stars
5/23/05 hk crap plot 1 stars
3/09/05 Uncle Phucker Some creepy scenes, but ultimately mediocre. 1 stars
2/06/05 clinger26 a crappy remake of a crappy movie 1 stars
2/05/05 rose the grudge is best movie out of all, all the stunts are real any other movie is fake. 5 stars
1/01/05 Raven Aren't remakes supposed to be of good movies? Not scary and there is no story at all. none. 1 stars
12/19/04 Daveman Nonsensical and not at all scary, I dread to think how crap the remake is. 2 stars
12/12/04 Goggman Seriously creepy 5 stars
11/26/04 Caiphn Convaluted, has it moments. Doesn't really come together unfortunately. 3 stars
11/23/04 haydon This movie is the scariest movie i've ever seen!........!..........!...........!..........! 5 stars
11/20/04 emily rak it was good, but very boring 4 stars
11/09/04 JL Loved It! 5 stars
11/08/04 Kevin You guys are talking about the wrong movie!! This page is for the Japanese version! >:( 5 stars
10/30/04 ali griffiths scared the living daylights out of me! 4 stars
10/26/04 David Milne Pretty Scary Movie 4 stars
10/26/04 bruce goldberg Geller was average.Movie slightly better than average 4 stars
10/25/04 aurora too many questions unanswered. generally lame. 2 stars
10/24/04 Nik Trailer gave away all the good scene. No character development...Boring 3 stars
10/23/04 davebo scary how confusing it is, and confusing why it isn't scary enough 3 stars
10/22/04 malcolm lots of good startles, but ultimately felt incomplete. several times i thought WTF?! 2 stars
9/06/04 Oscar Disturbing, eerie, and scary. I love that it is more focused on atmosphere than plot. 5 stars
8/25/04 Annie This movie and tv counterparts will have you crying for your mommy. 5 stars
8/24/04 timtop more thanthe sum of it's fragmented parts....loved it. Scary..and I'm hard as nails. 5 stars
8/21/04 Matt T. The film is good, but the remake should be better 4 stars
8/17/04 StümpA pretty weird...i liked it. for fans of those japanese ones 4 stars
8/10/04 kyotomatt The movie sucks. No understandable plot, just a bunch of SCARY GHOSTS. Incomplete. 2 stars
7/17/04 Ray Solid 4 stars
7/16/04 Oliver Has some good scares. 4 stars
7/05/04 Eric Han this movie has scared the shit out everyone who has seen it. thats what it was made for 5 stars
6/19/04 Jim A typically monocultural insight as the Japanese are far superior in the horror genre 4 stars
5/29/04 Ali pretty freaky and demented at times (espically when your high) 4 stars
5/28/04 madman Tries to be scary the whole time. It succeds half of it. You may be anoyed for the rest. 4 stars
5/18/04 taintedlunch Creepy, but nonsensical. Remake should be better. 4 stars
4/24/04 Brip Weinberg is wrong...not boring...surreal, unnerving, superior treatment than Western junk. 4 stars
3/29/04 Kyle The made for TV version was MUCH MUCH MUCH freakier 2 stars
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  23-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004



Directed by
  Takashi Shimizu

Written by
  Takashi Shimizu

  Megumi Okina
  Misaki Ito
  Misa Uehara
  Yui Ichikawa
  Kanji Tsuda
  Kayoko Shibata

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