Writer/director Takeshi Shimizu's Ju-on (The Grudge) originally aired on Japanese television, and eventually developed a worldwide cult following as a low-budget horror classic. Shimizu went on to make an extended version of the movie, misleadingly titled Ju-on 2, and a big-budget film based on the original video. Ju-on is a series of vignettes about a curse that passes on from one aggrieved dead person to the next. Kobayashi (Yuurei Yanagi), a young teacher with a pregnant wife, goes to visit the home of Toshio (Ryôta Koyama), a boy who's been missing from his class. He finds the house a wreck, and the boy alone and seemingly traumatized. The story then makes a temporal leap, as we find a teenager, Yuki (Hitomi Miwa), at the same house, studying with her classmate, Kanna (Asumi Miwa), who lives there with her brother, Tsuyoshi (Kazushi Andô), and their mother, Noriko (Yumi Yoshiyuki). Yuki has some kind of phobia about cats. Kanna remembers that she forgot to feed the rabbits at school, and rushes off, leaving Yuki. A cat wanders into the room and frightens Yuki into the closet. She hears a rattling noise coming from the crawlspace over the closet, and ill-advisedly takes a look up there. Mizuho (Chiaki Kuriyama), Tsuyoshi's girlfriend, goes looking for him at the school, where she runs into a ghostly Toshio, mewling like a cat, and meets a gruesome fate. Noriko returns home to an empty house. Kanna soon comes home, but she's...changed. The film then cuts back to Kobayashi, as he discovers the gruesome fate of Toshio's mother, an old schoolmate of his, and also finds out about his own surprising link to the strange boy. The story ends with Kyôko (Yûko Daike), a woman with psychic powers who is helping her brother sell the cursed house.
Another example of why Asian cinema is regarded a superior to hollywood over the recent years.
Ju-on is a surprisingly effective low-budget horror video from Japan. While the plot never quite comes together -- it's haphazard and confusing -- the movie succeeds because of its unnervingly creepy atmosphere and consistently mournful and unsettling tone. An object lesson in bang-for-the-buck, Ju-on uses its limited means to create an overwhelming sense of dread. There are a couple of visceral shock moments, particularly a memory-searing sequence in which one unfortunate schoolgirl, Kanna (Asumi Miwa), returns home in an altered state. But for the most part, the movie works on a more subtle level, cannily using disconcerting sound effects and shadowy visuals to get under the skin. Writer/director Takeshi Shimizu and cinematographer Tokusho Kikumura get the most out of digital video's natural coldness and shallow focus. From an early shot of a neighbor stopping for a quick shudder outside the aggrieved house that is the center of the movie's horrors to its use of sparse, awkward dialogue in several uncomfortable social situations, Ju-on captures an overwhelming feeling of alienation that transcends its modest ghost story trappings
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