Ju-on, which means curse-grudge, is a Japanese horror film series that more or less focuses on evil spirits and curses. Stylistically, each movie is divided into vignettes. Each vignette focuses on a different character, but chronologically the vignettes are many times out of order. Ju-on: The Grudge, is no different, and the elusiveness of time is present throughout the film and makes the viewer piece together what actually happened to produce the evil spirit or curse.
What makes the film special is its classical J-horror roots. Curses are a major part of J-horror and Japanese culture overall. Folk religion is a part of this movie, which is seen in the use of ghosts, curses, and most importantly Yuurei, which is a stranded spirit that dies during intense rage or emotion. J-horror is so rich in history and style, that in order to get a full grasp of a particular movie, it is necessary to research J-horror groundwork. Even if you do not have any understanding of this culture or its horror movies, it is still possible to enjoy Ju-on: The Grudge. Most horror movies boil down to the psychological trauma and scares that the movie inflicts on its viewers, and Ju-on: The Grudge inflicts trauma. Whether it is flashes of spirits or slow, intense suspense, the viewer is going to find moments within each vignette that triggers them emotionally in some way. As a technical point, the vignettes are an approach that allows the viewers to immerse themselves into each individual story and become attached to different characters at different times. While stories do blend across vignettes, each one allows some private time for the viewer to engage with the title character. This private time leads to connection, which leads to emotionality when an individual dies or is psychologically scarred.
It seems like Ju-on: The Grudge has a little bit of everything for its viewers in the fear department. The seemingly common idea of a ghost seeking revenge is given new life by multiple embodiments, unique environments, and a good range of chase and hide. The ghost will many times chase after its victims, but it will also sit in corners or closets waiting for its victim to enact their own doom. Overall, the spirit in Ju-on: The Grudge is almighty and powerful, which gives a sense of impending doom and the thought that no matter what you do, you can’t escape the curse. There are moments throughout the film and many times throughout other Japanese horror films that the viewer will feel that the actors overacted. This shouldn’t be seen as an error in acting, but rather a difference in culture and cinematic style. Whether or not the character overacted doesn’t change the fact that Ju-on: The Grudge is scary and most importantly scarring.
I believe the sign of a great horror film is one that stays with you for a while and this film accomplishes that. A curse has been discovered on horror island and the spirit isn’t going away anytime soon. Even evil creatures have to deal with karma once in awhile, so they better watch their backs.
If you liked Ju-On: The Grudge, you might also like Ringu and A Tale of Two Sisters.