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Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Shimizu Takashio

Starring:
Megumi Okina/Rika
Misaki Ito/Hitomi
Misa Uehara/Izumi
Yui Ichikawa/Chiharu
PLOT-CRUNCH
A haunted house, in which a husband/father killed his family (a man’s gotta cut that edge!), hexes and axes anybody that enters in freaking spine-chilling ways. Don’t look under the sheets, don’t answer the phone, don’t double-dip, don’t bang your boy’s girl and always leave the toilet seat up (yes…up) or the Grudge will get ya!
THE LOWDOWN
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.

Before I begin, a little "Ju-On" history lesson for your grey matter. The way I understand it, the series began as two straight-to-TV (and video) micro-budget Japanese movies called Ju-On (2000) and Ju-On 2 (2000). Prompted by their success, two big budget re-imaginings called Ju-On: The Grudge (2003) and Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003) were made. "Ju-On: The Grudge" is now getting the American remake treatment under the title "The Grudge" (see Bull's Eye for more info) and all five incarnations were directed by the same hombre: Shimizu Takashi. Wow, that hurt! I need a breather…BONG please!

"Ju-On: The Grudge" stood out for me in terms of all the other post-"Ringu" offerings due to its unorthodox, twisty-turvy, "Pulp Fiction"-like narrative structure. The flick played out as short stories, following individuals that either entered the house or were in contact with somebody that entered the house (the hauntings are contagious…good shite!). So yes, all of the tales were somewhat interconnected, but to make matters confusing, they also unraveled in a non-linear fashion. HAVE A BLAST! I must admit that this silly rabbit was a tad befuddled at times as to where the fudge I was and what the Mickey Rourke was going on! Thankfully, the fact that all the characters were fleshed out enough within their limited screen time and that I could always bank on somebody expiring eerily at the end of each segment, the film gave me something to hold on to, even with the bamboozle factor drilling my head.

The cherries on top of this one’s rock hard nipples were its army of white-knuckle, bareback riding, no holds barred scares that constantly surfaced to teach me a shoe-chewing lesson. The horror ingredients on display were simple, yet incredibly, spicy. I’m talking about a creepy little kid with a bluish skin tone, a spine-tingling shadow like entity and a terrifying chick crawling on all fours while making one of the scariest sounds this side of my bedroom on a Friday night. All of the macabre treats were communicated via creative and incredibly unnerving fear set pieces (all about the under the bed sheets bit…fuck me man!) that whooped all kinds of butt! And to top that off, all of those potent jolts were coated in a delicious veneer of horror imagery with gritty photography and crawl under skin, under veins, under bone dread-filled atmosphere seeped in. Sure, the flick lifted some of its conventions off the very popular "Ringu" (the TV incident, the photo quirks, the ghost with hair in her face) but that didn’t bother me none. This nut-ball more than compensated for its familiar elements by pulling its own horror weight, whipping me silly and fucking me stupid in the process.

The only minor grudge I had with the picture was that even though I appreciated the Lynch-like vibe and boogied on being lost every so often in a “trying to solve an intricate puzzle” type of way, I found myself a way TOO lost in places. In my opinion, that weakened the whole where the flick sported an engrossing premise and it would’ve had more impact if I had “capished” all of it. NOTE: I’ve had fellow horror lovers tell me that watching its two low budget forefathers would help in clarifying some things. Maybe I’ll do that on my next pass, or maybe I’ll get out of my crappy apartment already and get laid instead. I mean, it is spring after all! Decisions…decisions…

But overall, "Ju-On: The Grudge" was a very simple movie that purposely played its game in a complex way. The good news is that it still managed to deliver the goods and make for a fulfilling watch. I gotta hand it to our Asian horror brothers...they sure know how to numb brain cells while delivering their blood freezing frights. I was calling to my “mommy” out loud many o' times while watching this movie and I’m glad to report that mommy never came to save me! The last flick that gave me the willies to that extent was "The Eye" (another fine Asian genre opus)! Now let’s think of all the people we loathe and say out loud…GRUDGE ON YOU! GRUDGE ON YOU!
GORE
We get blood here and there and lots of sinister looking (and sounding) Poltergeists. The flick was not too messy, but was still bang-me-sideways scary.
ACTING
I watched the film in Japanese with English subtitles. So for all I know, Megumi Okina (Rika), Misaki Ito (Hitomi), Misa Uehara (Izumi) and Yui Ichikawa (Chiharu) were really saying that I blow dog dicks while my dog blows Maltin rod. Either way…hey…I bought it! Signed, sealed delivered! GREAT ACTING ALL AROUND!
T & A
Nothing worth mentioning here, although as I was watching the flick my regular UPS lady stopped by the shit hole for half an hour, got naked and gargled ice cubes in my lap while dressed like a circus clown. Does that count? In my book…IT DOES! You go Bo-Bo! You go!
DIRECTING
Takashi went "all out" in the morbid mood, overhead shots and graceful camera movement department. He also sure knew how to use sounds effectively, build up a scare scene and keep us on the line to then whoop our skull with ghoul attacks. Slick stuff!
SOUNDTRACK
The score was more akin to a collection of ghostly noises, whispers and distortions than “classic” tracks. It worked in the picture’s favor where it augmented its fright quotient to a ludicrous degree. Watch this one in surround sound and poop your diaper!
BOTTOM LINE
Get ready to have your head fuck-started hard by this genre jack-hammer! "Ju-On: The Grudge" kept me riveted to the screen via its likeable characters, eerie premise and severe assault on my scary bone through its grand collection of frightening scenarios. Sure, I was perplexed at times and if the story had played it a smidgen more straight, I would’ve gotten more out of the whole thing, but having said that, maybe mind-raping me was the point of it all or maybe I’m a just complete moron! Either way...see this flick. Confused or not, one thing is for certain: YOU’LL BE SCARED!
BULL'S EYE
Since Hollywood has ZERO creativity these days and would rather recycle already existing material as opposed to giving their home grown screenwriters who possess original material a shot, a remake of "The Grudge" is now in the works, directed by the same man behind the original (Shimizu Takashi) and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clea DuVall and Bill Pullman.

Shimizu Takashi went to the Film School of Tokyo and two of his teachers were Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of "Pulse") and Hiroshi Takahashi (screenwriter of "Ringu"). Both men are actually credited as "creative consultants" on "Ju-On: The Grudge".

Lion Gates have acquired this film for domestic distribution .
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