I wonder what we really need to fear in this film: the atmosphere and mood that is so spooky? the ghosts? or is it maybe the understanding that violence and vengeance so easily grow out of control? That last is something we all can -- and perhaps should -- fear.

(2004) Film Review by Darrel Manson

This page was created on August 15, 2004
This page was last updated on December 29, 2004

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Directed and written by Takashi Shimizu

Cast (in credits order)
Megumi Okina .... Rika Nishina
Misaki Ito .... Hitomi Tokunaga
Misa Uehara .... Izumi Toyama
Yui Ichikawa .... Chiharu
Kanji Tsuda .... Katsuya Tokunaga
Kayoko Shibata .... Mariko
Yukako Kukuri .... Miyuki
Shuri Matsuda .... Kazumi Tokunaga
Yoji Tanaka .... Yuuji Toyama
Takashi Matsuyama .... Saeki Takeo
Yuya Ozeki .... Toshio
Takako Fuji .... Kayako
Chikara Ishikura .... Hirohashi
Chikako Isomura .... Sachie
Daisuke Honda .... Detective Igarashi
Hirokazu Inoue .... Detective Nakagawa
Tomomi Kobayashi .... Izumi (elementary school)
Aki Fujii .... Yoko Toyama
Risa Odagiri .... Saori
Akira Saito .... Sekine (teacher)

Produced by Taka Ichise
Original Music by Shiro Sato
Cinematography by Tokusho Kikumura
Film Editing by Nobuyuki Takahashi

MPAA: Rated R for some disturbing images.
Runtime: 92 min

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Click to enlargeA volunteer home care worker, Nishina Rika (Megumi Okina), enters the home of a bed-ridden patient and discovers a strange ghostly presence lurking behind a door sealed with duct tape. Her discovery unleashes a horrible evil which baffles police investigators, who find that a whole series of people have gone missing from this particular house. Further investigation leads to Izutni Toyama (Misa Uehara), a former detective who handled the case of a man who murdered his wife in the house, but whose son was never found. But when the angry "Ju-On" spirit of vengeance that has infected the house reaches beyond its boundaries to kill Toyama and his daughter, Rika realizes that the horror is spreading. Worse, unless something is done about it, she feels she may become the angry spirit's next victim!

Vitagraph Films, the distribution arm of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, has brought unique and distinctive cinematic visions to audiences nationwide since 1999. Theatrically releasing innovative and critically acclaimed films such as AUDITION, BUBBA HO-TEP and THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED has cemented Vitagraph’s reputation as a champion of cult cinema. For more information, please visit www.vitagraphfilms.com.

Lions Gate Entertainment is the premier independent producer and distributor of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment and video-on-demand content. Its prestigious and prolific library of 8000+ titles is one of the largest in the industry and the biggest in indie history. The Lions Gate brand name is synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.

Review by
Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

Darrel has an incredible love and interest in the cinematic arts. His reviews usually include independent and significantly important film.
Click to enlargePerhaps Ju-on should be thought of more as a franchise than as a specific film. There have been previous incarnations in Japan in recent years and there is an Americanized version (The Grudge, with Sarah Michelle Gellar) coming out in October, also directed by Takashi Shimizu. All are basically the same story, retold with different perspectives.

Ju-on: The Grudge is not the kind of horror film that American audiences are used to. The films most of us are used to are either plot driven or character driven. Plot is really only a minor consideration in Ju-on, and we are given only a few bits and pieces of any of the characters. It is really more about the ambiance of fear. It accomplishes this ambiance not by showing lots of gore, but by building tension and by throwing in little visual surprises that do far more to give us a sense of terror than lots of blood.

Click to enlargeJu-on is indeed creepy. The story takes place in a house in which a murder/suicide happened years before. Now the ghosts are seeking to hurt anyone that they come in contact with. These are not nice ghosts. They are not looking for some release so they can move on to another world. They aren't looking to tie up loose ends of some issue that is holding them here. They are downright malevolent: they want to kill people. One of the most disturbing images is the ghost of a child. He doesn't really seem to do anything himself, but he is always the harbinger of evil about to strike.

The story is told in a series of episodes, not necessarily even in chronological order, each based on a particular character. Some of the episodes are several years apart. But in each, there is some sort of contact with the house, then someone ends up dead, attacked by one of the ghosts.

Click to enlargeI'm not really a fan of ghost films because so often the ghosts are just like us, only dead. Eventually in ghost films, things are straightened out and problems are resolved so everyone can get on with life (or death). Ju-on doesn't fall into that trap. The violence that took place in the house has set in motion even more violence, now being carried out by the victims. There is never any reason given. Nor is there any resolution reached. This might be a problem for some viewers who want things neatly tied up, but Ju-on isn't interested in solving anything -- just in creating that sense of dread and fear.

Click to enlargeThe violence that sets this off really functions almost like a virus. It just keeps spreading as more and more people come into the setting. There is never enough blood to satisfy the lust for vengeance that is being worked out by the ghosts. The people killed have nothing to do with the events that have taken place in the house; they are innocents. But revenge doesn't seem to care who gets hurt -- or how many. It just keeps spreading, drawing more and more people into the darkness of the violence.

I wonder what we really need to fear in this film: the atmosphere and mood that is so spooky? the ghosts? or is it maybe the understanding that violence and vengeance so easily grow out of control? That last is something we all can -- and perhaps should -- fear.


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