Genre: Supernatural Horror
review in one breath
Here is a creepy Japanese movie straight out the Ring tradition. Shimizu Takashi is the director here, working with both Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of Cure, Charisma, and Kairo) and Hiroshi Takahashi himself (screenwriter of the Ring trilogy). What this triad brings to the table is a classic japanese horror film relying on mood and sound and Japanese cultural intuitions about the fate of wronged souls.
Ju-On (2000 - Made for television)
Ju-On 2 (2000 - Made for television)
Ju-On (2002 - Theatrical release)
Ju-On 2 (2003 - Theatrical release)
The film opens with an explanation of its title:
- JU-ON: a curse born of a grudge held by someone who dies in the grip of powerful anger. It gathers in the places frequented by that person in life, working its spell on those who come into contact with it and thus creating itself anew.
Thus the "curse" is perpetuated like a virus, starting with the untimely demise of an unfortunate soul, whose angry ghost causes the untimely deaths of other unfortunate souls coming into contact with it, who in turn cause the death of other unfortunate souls, who in turn... Well, I think you are starting to get the picture.
The story is told through six intertwining episodes each named after its main character. Although this structure is mirrored in the theatrical version of Juon, each of the six episodes is completely different, involving different characters and different stories. The episodes, though not chronologically sequential, are proximate enough in time to each to provide some implicit overlap. Episodes one and five contain the same main character which seems to serve as a bracket for the story proper. The story contained in Episode six is the latest chronologically and seems aimed solely at informing us that the perpetuation of the Juon Curse is still moving forward at the end of the movie (foreshadowing the sequel! woo hoo!).
The following are some pretty detailed descriptions of the six episodes. These may constitute spoilers, though they certainly won't take the edge off the creepiness of seeing the movie. I am providing this level of description for the benefit of those wishing to know what the movie is all about.
After a long day of teaching elementary students, Shunsuke Kobayashii returns home and is greeted by his young wife who is so pregnant she is practicing her breathing exercises while preparing dinner. Following dinner, Kobayashii unsuccessfully tries to phone the parents of Toshio Saeki, a student of his who has been absent from school for some time. As he describes Toshio's unexplained absence to his wife, they discuss Toshio's mother, Kayoko, who the wife knew in high school, recalling that Kayoko gave her the creeps. ("Kimotchee warui.") Kobayashii decides to visit Toshio's home the following day to see if everything is alright.
The next day Kobayashii approaches the Saeki house and knocks, but receives no answer. Hearing something around back, he walks along the side of the house and stops in front of the garbage-strewn back yard. As he steps onto the garbage to navigate the yard, he hears a remarkably audible SQUISH. Curious to see what caused this, he lifts up the carpet remnant he had stepped on and discovers a thoroughly pulverized black cat (as in blender-pulverized!). He quickly drops the carpet back down in disgust, and then spots two small arms sticking out of a first story bathroom window. Approaching the window, he finds Toshio despondently staring out. When Kobayashii greets him, Toshio responds with a long, drawn out "teeeaacchheerrr". When Kobayashii didn't seem taken aback by this greeting, I had to quickly think if I had missed the explanation that Kobayashii taught Special Ed children. When Toshio quickly disappears from the window back into the house, Kobayashii decides to let himself in through the front door.
He finds the inside of the house similarly strewn with trash, and upon closer examination discovers Toshio covered in bruises and cuts. In several places Toshio has ad hoc bandages taped to him as if the child had done it himself. Kobayashii inquires about Toshio's mom and dad, and is told that they are both out. Kobayashii then brings out an ice-breaker, a drawing which Toshio had made in class of his mother and father, complementing the skill of the drawing. Noting that it appears that Toshio has been alone for quite some time, Kobayashii asks what Toshio was doing in the bathroom, in response to which Toshio becomes rather dark and sullen, and gazes toward the floor silently. As we hear the sound of a cat crying, Kobayashii moves toward the window and peers out toward the street wondering when the parents might return. In the background we see Toshio glaring at Kobayashii's back, mouth wide open, screaming like a cat.
We are back in the same house, though some time has passed from Episode One. The house is now owned by the Murakami family and is clean, sunny and bustling with activity. Noriko, the mother, is on her way out, but brings some tea upstairs to her daughter Kanna's bedroom where she is studying diligently under the careful eye of her tutor, Yuki. Kanna's room, which is at the top of the stairs, is filled with cat dolls and figurines, and it soon becomes apparent that Yuki becomes rather agitated each time she sets eyes on them. In addition, every now and then, she hears a cat's cry coming from nowhere in particular. As Yuki becomes increasingly freaked out, she repeatedly hears something disturbing from within the house, but each time she asks Kanna what the noise is, Kanna replies that she hears nothing. As they simultaneously look toward the ceiling, Kanna's eyes grow wide and she lets out a scream. She then explains that she forgot to feed the rabbit at school, which was her responsibility this week. She quickly dresses in her school uniform and hurries toward the door. Before leaving, Kanna jokingly tells Yuki about her brother Tsuyoshi's new girlfriend. Overhearing from the top of the stairs, Tsuyoshi yells at his sister to quit embarrassing him and heads back into his bedroom at the rear of the second floor.
Kanna heads off to school, leaving Yuki and Tsuyoshi alone in the house. Yuki heads back up to Kanna's room when we hear what she has been hearing all along, a deep, creepy croaking noise. In defiance, she puts on her headphones and blasts her new JPOP CD. But her (american made?) CD player soon malfunctions leaving her with no other alternative than to take the headphones off. The croaking sound is now more audible and Yuki is able to determine that it is coming from the attic over the bedroom. She quickly gathers her belongings from the room and heads for the door. Exiting the room, she finds the hallway and the entire house in utter darkness. She calls for Tsuyoshii, but receives no reply. A black cat suddenly leaps out at her, causing her to scream and run back into Kanna's room. When the cat enters the room, Yuki's powerful aversion to cats causes her to leap up onto a closet shelf in a huddling mass of kitty-induced terror. But her troubles have only just begun, as the croaking from the attic becomes much louder, and looking up, Yuki sees that the open door to the attic is in the closet ceiling directly above her. Grabbing a lighter from her purse and standing on the closet shelf, she is high enough to stick her head up into the attic to take a look around. (A Very Very good idea, Yuki!) As she peers into the pitch darkness, the croaking emerges from the back of the attic, and is suddenly accompanied with a strange shuffling noise. Before Yuki is able to react, she realizes that there is now a presence directly in front of her face, but it is too dark to see what it is. Using the lighter to dimly light the area, she suddenly sees the hideous face of a woman only inches away staring directly at her. We then watch as Yuki is dragged up into the attic, screaming and legs flailing. Back out on the sunlit hallway, we see Tsuyoshi, now in his school uniform, leaving the house, apparently oblivious to what just happened in the bedroom next to his.
Later that afternoon, Tsuyoshi's girlfriend, Mizuho Tamura, returns to school looking for Tsuyoshi. The school day ended long ago and all the other students have gone home. In addition to finding Tsuyoshi's bike at the school entrance, Mizuho finds a cell phone dropped on the ground. While she is standing at the school entrance, a teacher emerges asking why Mizuho is still around. She explains that she is looking for Tsuyoshi, but is informed by the teacher that no one but herself is in the school. Wishing she could close the school for the day, but now wondering if in fact Tsuyoshi is somewhere still inside, the two head into the darkened school and to the teachers' office where the teacher uses the public intercom to call for Tsuyoshi. The teacher then tells Mizuho to wait there while she goes through the school once more looking for Tsuyoshi.
Mizuho uses the cell phone she found to call Tsuyoshi's home to inquire whether he has returned or not. While the person on the other end tells her that Tsuyoshi still isn't back from school, Mizuho flips on the light switch. The room lights flicker, but then sputter and go dark, while at the same moment, the cell phone goes dead. She stands at a desk and fidgets with a desk lamp, slowly turning it on and off, until it too (!) flickers and goes dark. Mizuho crawls under the desk to investigate the cause, and finds that the lamp is unplugged. (Apparently Mizuho does not have a thorough grasp of the rudiments of electrical appliances, since discovery that the previously working lamp was unplugged doesn't seem to bother her.) As she plugs it back in, she hears (and sees) running footsteps of a child's bare feet come through the room, directly next to the desk, and down the hallway. As she sits frozen in fear, the cell phone atop the desk suddenly rings. Afraid the noise will draw attention to herself from the running feet, she slowly reaches her hand up toward the desk top and phone, when she inadvertently grabs onto the ankle of the child who is now standing on the desk. As Mizuho screams, the child jumps wildly upon the desk making the sound of an earthquake.
When the jumping stops and Mizuho thinks that the child is gone, she stands up and looks at the cell phone which is still ringing. The LCD of the phone lists the call as coming from a very strange number (44444444444) which seems to scare Mizuho and she backs away from the phone. Thinking it is an opportune tome to leave, she slowly opens the door and peers down the dark hallway. The site of the long, dark hallway and the prospect of meeting the running feet are enough to make her wait for the teacher to return, and she heads back into the room and toward the cell phone which is still (!) ringing. Deciding to answer the phone, she picks it up and says "hello?" On the other end shes hears only the cry of a cat. At that moment she feels something suddenly grab her arm from behind. In terror she slowly turns to see the white face of a small boy, mouth wide open, crying with the voice of a cat.
[At the city morgue, police detectives have arrived to ask the coroner about recent discoveries. One is of the body of a young girl with traces of rabbit hair on it. The other, is of simply a human jaw ("ago") found in a different location. The police wonder who the jaw belongs to (HINT: Look for the person with the peculiar smile!) and the coroner informs them that they are currently doing DNA tests to determine this. In hand, the detectives have photos including one that looks like Kanna.]
Meanwhile back at the Murakami home, mother Noriko has returned to find the house empty. As she puts the groceries away, there is a phone call from someone asking whether Tsuyoshi is home. Before she can answer fully, the caller on the other end seems to have hung up. As she is still standing in the kitchen, someone enters through the front door of the home and slowly makes their way up the stairs. From our vantage we can see that the figure is covered in blood. Hearing someone enter the house, Noriko walks to the front stairs and sees what appears to be Kanna, in a bloodied school uniform monstrously wobbling up the stairs. But the site is too bizarre and causes the mother to scream out "who are you?". The figure slowly turns to face Noriko. Noriko shrieks in terror as she recognizes Kanna, now with a ghostly face with a gaping wide hole where her bottom jaw used to be.
We are back at the Saeki house and Shunsuke Kobayashii (of Episode One) is still staring out the window. He is on the phone now with his wife informing her that Toshio is sleeping soundly on the couch while they still wait for his parents to return home. As he looks around the living room, Kobayashii finds a photograph torn into pieces. Rearranging the pieces like a puzzle, he reconstructs the photo which he now sees is of the Saeki family. The face of Toshio's mother has been ripped out of the picture and is still missing. Kobayashi hears a cat's cry coming from the hallway, and he follows the sound into the bathroom from which he initially found Toshio peering outside. After gazing out of the window for a few seconds, Kobayashii turns back in and looks into the tub. In a flash he has a vision of his hands terribly bloodied and the body of a pulverized black cat in the tub. In a moment's time the vision is gone and he quickly returns to the living room to find Toshio gone.
Looking through the house for Toshio, Kobayashi makes his way upstairs and hears the muffled voice of Toshio talking to someone. As he approaches the rear bedroom, Kobayashi thinks he can hear the voice of a woman and believes it to be Toshio's mom, Kayoko. Inside the room, however, he finds Toshio all alone, drawing furiously. Toshio is drawing cats, LOTS of cats. When Kobayashi asks who he was talking to, Toshio says nothing, but then looks toward the door as they both hear a woman's voice call "Kobayashi-kun". Kobayashi follows the voice into the hallway where the door to another bedroom suddenly opens. Entering the bedroom, he finds a desk littered with papers. A pile of torn photos are there, as is a notebook journal. Opening the journal, he realizes that it is Kayoko's journal, and in it she has recorded her infatuated obsession with Toshio's teacher, Kobayashi. In just a few seconds' time, Kobayashi has read enough to categorize Kayoko as a crazed stalker, but it is not until he finds a photo of himself with the face scratched out that he disgustedly throws the journal back onto the desk. As he makes his way out of the bedroom, he hears the sound of flies buzzing from the closet. From his vantage he is able to see up into the closet and through an opening in the ceiling to the attic. Perched slightly inside the attic, he sees the lifeless corpse of Kayoko.
Kobayashi runs from the room and retrieves Toshio, carrying him down the stairs. As they are exiting the house, Kobayashi remembers he left his briefcase in the living room, sets Toshio down, and runs in to get it. While returning to the front door with briefcase in hand, his cell phone rings, so he stops (!) and answers the phone. On the other end is the deranged voice of Toshio's father, Takeo Saeki. "This is the teacher, right? Have you met Kayoko yet?" Takeo asks ominously. We see that Takeo is calling from an extremely bloodied phone booth and is clearly experiencing a psychotic break.
In his hand he holds what is apparently a fully developed fetus which he looks at and laughingly exclaims to Kobayashii that it is a girl. He then informs Kobayashii that he has visited Kobayashii's wife and that the fetus is his own (i.e., Kobayashii's) soon-to-be-born child. Hearing this, Kobayashi drops to the floor as Toshio picks up the dropped phone and begins to talk to "mother". Kobayashi stares at Toshio as the boy replies into the phone "I understand." and then stands with mouth wide open emitting a very strange sighing noise. Suddenly they hear a large thud from the upstairs bedroom, followed by a rustling slither of something coming down the stairs. In the time it takes them both to look toward the stairs, the slithering sound has gotten much louder, and there perched on the stairs is a crawling, bloodied Kayoko. As he scrambles to get out of the house, Kobayashii hurriedly backs up against the front door and in a panic opens it. Hearing a noise above him, he looks up to find Kayoko's head floating in the opening of the door peering down at him. Her face suddenly descends to within inches of his face as we hear her again call "Kobayashi-kun".
Takeo has by now placed the extracted fetus in a backpack and exited the blood-smeared phone booth. As he stumbles down the street he swings the bag, smashing it against any object within striking distance. It is clear that he is seething with hatred. As his steps become more and more unstable, he finally stumbles into a pile of garbage bags which softens his fall. He suddenly rears off the bags and backs away as if scared. Moving toward him across the darkened street, one garbage bag writhes and expands, until a woman's hand tears through and slowly reaches toward the now terrified Takeo.
The young and pretty Kyoko is visiting her brother Tatsuya at his real estate office. While they talk, he tells her that he recently was put in charge of a rather unpromising property at which the enitre family of previous owners was found dead. Despite this creepiness, Tatsuya must go look at the property before listing it and insists that Kyoko come along. As they approach the house located on a quiet street, Kyoko immediately has bad vibes. She tells Tatsuya that more people than simply the previous family members have died here, though she can't explain any further. Tatsuya shrugs this off, wondering what in the h*ll Kyoko is talking about. Hearing a strange noise, Kyoko walks up the stairs and sees the ghostly shape of a white-dressed woman in the hallway. The woman bends over with back facing Kyoko until Kyoko can look directly into her eyes. This doesn't seem to phase Kyoko (if she can indeed see what we are seeing) and she climbs the remaining stairs and enters the bedroom against which she saw the woman leaning. Once inside the room, the sense of darkness is overpowering (no kidding!) and Kyoko demands that Tatsuya bring her some rice wine ("Seishu"). While he goes back down to look for sake, she hears a noise coming from the attic above the room.
When Tatsuya returns with the wine, Kyoko gulps a mouthful and spits it out the window. She then explains that wine weakens the power of spirits over the living, and she makes her brother promise to drink a little wine before ever entering this house. She also strongly requests that Tetsuya not sell the house to anyone. With this, she promptly excuses herself and flees from the house, while Tatsuya remains behind gladly gulping the sake.
Later in the week, while Kyoko is talking with her brother on the phone, he tells her that he was able to sell the house. Kyoko sounds quite surprised at this and hurries to the house to see for herself. As she approaches the house, she sees a young man walk out. From within the house she can see a young woman dressed in a white dress staring despondently out the window. As the young woman slowly turns to stare directly at Kyoko, fear overtakes her as if she realizes the woman is possessed.
|A very creepy movie. Precursor to the Japanese theatrical remake.||Some minor blood and gore. Although viewers are never shown anything, the notion of Takeo slamming the backpack around was a bit disturbing.||Not even a whole bottle of viagra will help you while watching this creepy movie! No sex here.||Definitely a creepy film with some bizarre intuitions regarding angry spirits. Unanswered questions include (1) How did Toshio die (or did he)? (2) How did Tsuyoshii disappear? (3) What happened to Kanna's bottom jaw (and how can she smile like that without it!)?|