Monday, June 27, 2011

The Ju-on film series

Enough of that panda foolishness, lol. Back to the good stuff!

Ju-on [2000] is partially responsible for revitalizing the J-horror genre in the early 2000s and it is one of the two best known Japanese horror film series, the other being the Ring series (which can lay claim to most of that credit for the revitalizing).

First some history. The Ju-on series, 'juon' (呪怨) meaning 'grudge' or 'curse', is the brainchild of director Takashi Shimizu and I must say he's milked this thing for all its worth. Directing no less than 7 of the 10 films in the series, including two American remakes, I'm hard-pressed to resist calling the man a one-trick pony but hey, itsa livin' and who am I to judge?
They look like this.

First appearing as a direct-to-video movie in 2000, Ju-on takes the age-old haunted house premise and really makes it special. Anyone who's seen The Ring will be familiar with this image, the vengeful spirit, onryou, 怨霊. Well, that might be the most popular manifestation in the mainstream eye today due to those movies but they come in other forms too.

Or this.

Or this.
Most haunted house films run like survival horror games, the protagonists struggle to escape the house and when they do, they're free and clear. Ju-on? Well, that's what makes it special. In a similar manner to Ringu [1998], the menace is contagious. It follows you out of the house (or video tape) and into the world, wherever you go, and that, I believe, is why audiences loved it. The chills you feel follow you out of the theater and back home. Just like how Jaws made us think twice before going back into the ocean, Ju-on will make sure the first thing you do when you open a closet is to look up and check the ceiling. Not to mention this sound.

Later that year Shimizu released Ju-on 2, also direct-to-video. These two films received enough attention for him to get the go-ahead to remake them with better budgets and bet-...well, different actors in 2003. He subsequently, and confusingly, titled them Ju-on: The Grudge and Ju-on: The Grudge 2.
Damsel in distress? I think not.
(⌐ ⌐__) As I've said, originality isn't one of his stronger qualities. These two films received enough attention that Hollywood came knocking and gave him the go-ahead to remake them with even better budgets and... Buffy. (ಠ_ಠ) OH SWEET BABY JESUS!
Who green-lighted that?! I don't know about you but I just can't suspend my disbelief enough to feel like Buffy is in danger.
Could she BE anymore miscast?
Three years later, a full 9 years after it all started, Shimizu squeezed down on the last drops of this cash cow, giving us The Grudge 3, Ju-on: Shiroi Roujo and Ju-on: Kuroi Shoujo in 2009. Each of these will get their own look-see so I won't go into them right now.
While you can say Shimizu lacks originality he certainly doesn't lack ingenuity, twisting his one story and finding new ways to present it (at least for a while).
Therefore, I would caution you to refrain from dismissing these films based solely on the fact that every single one has the same premise and more or less a similar plot.
Say, doesn't that remind you of something?