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Review - Ju-On

July 4th, 2004

Japanese horror films are experiencing a new burst of popularity among moviegoers in the domestic market with many being remade for American audiences. The first that really capture the attention of moviegoers was The Ring, which grossed more than $100 million at the box office. The latest movie to receive this treatment is Ju-On, which is being remade as The Grudge and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar

Before I get into the review, a little warning. Reviewing a horror film like Ju-On is very hard to do without giving away too much. It is very much a balancing act between giving enough information for the readers to decide for themselves if they want to see the movie and not giving away any spoilers. I've decided to err on the side of ambiguity and because of that this review is intentionally vague. I apologize for this in advanced and to make up for I'll make my opinion of the film that much more clear.

Ju-On is a curse born out of an angry death. This particular curse resides in a house that has a nasty history and it tries to hurt all those who come in contact with it. Each time it takes a victim the curse is born anew. And that's all I can really say about the plot without potentially spoiling some of it for you.

I had a couple of concerns before I watched the movie, most notably would the cultural differences between here and Japan reduce the effectiveness of some of the horror elements? Well, that wasn't a problem for two reasons; firstly, there was very little symbolism that didn't translate well and secondly, the movie generated a lot of its scares from not letting the audience in on the whole picture, so the mild culture shock just added to the films effectiveness.

In fact, there are several obfuscating factors that help build on the sense of horror. The story does have some non-chronological jumps that make it harder to follow, but mostly in a good way. Also, this is the third of a four part series and because of that there are some unanswered questions about the plot and back-story.

It must be said that Ju-On is a horror film in the truest sense of the word, as opposed to slasher films that tend to dominate the market here. It builds its horror on a solid foundation of what can best be described as, 'Don't go in there, you fool!' moments, not to mention the frequent, 'Run, dammit! Run!' moments. Bottom line, this is one of the creepiest, scariest and most unnerving movies I have ever seen. I'm not saying I'll be sleeping with the lights on tonight because of this film, I'll be sleeping with the lights on for entirely different reasons.

If you like your horror well laid out where everything is explained to you, then this isn't the movie for you. Also, if your idea of horror is a high body count, than this isn't the movie for you. On the other hand, if you liked The Ring, then chances are you will love this movie.

Ju-On opens in select theatres on July 23rd and expands in the following weeks. The remake opens wide October 29th.

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Filed under: The Ring, The Grudge