You Won Candy Corn: Ju-On: The Grudge (2002, Dir. Takashi Shimizu)

Ju-On The Grudge 2002 Movie Review

I know it’s cliched to ask why, when confronted with some major threat in a horror film, the characters don’t try to leave the house or call the police. But it’s cliched for a reason: why the hell don’t they do that? The door’s right there, asshole, fucking run out it. What, do you have some sort of crippling social anxiety that getting dismembered by a blue toddler is preferable to having to go outside of your house and interact with other human beings?

In Ju-On: The Grudge, there is one character in the film who decides to do just that, and judging by the fact we never hear from him again, it must have turned out well for him. The other two people in the scene, rather than following his lead, stayed rooted where they were, staring dumbfounded at this supernatural horror that was moving towards them at a rate of half a snail’s asshole per hour. They could break every single one of their limbs and roll away at a faster pace than what it was going at.

Ju-On is the story of a group of people who get their shit wrecked by a couple of shit-wrecking ghosts.The why is unimportant. This family got their shit wrecked, and now they’re coming back from the afterlife to pass on their shit-wrecking nature to the next hapless customer. Why these ghosts always seem keen on scaring the living daylights out of everyone except for the person who made them ghosts in the first place is beyond me.

The story is told through a series of vignettes loosely related to one another. They’re all centered around the same house, and the same nuclear family of ghosts that inhabits the house, but the relationships between the actors is tangential. Each one is a set up for telling the same story of suburbanites getting fucked up by a supernatural horror.

The episodic nature works to its detriment. Just when an individual storyline gets interesting, it stops, and we move on to a separate storyline. The film is a frustrating exercise in pressing “reset”, taking our time learning about a character and in their individual story, then starting over with new characters, new stories, and the same damn audience watching the film go through the legwork of setting up the next scary scene before it also ends.

Granted, when I say ‘new’, I don’t mean to imply these vignettes have meaningful variety to them. The characters are all suburban cliches with carbon-copy personalities, put through hell and back for the sake of servicing the horror. The plotlines all boil down to ‘people see strange happenings until they die.’ The main thing the story has going for it, and the only truly meaningful variety between the vignettes are the ghost scenes, but even those can overstay their welcome. More than once in the film I saw the same horror sequence used once, twice, thrice, and so on, the effect of the scares diminishing with each successive use This film had enough material to make a thirty minute horror movie, but they stretched it out to three times its length.

The “mystery” at the center of the film isn’t. A sadistic father kills his family. That’s not a spoiler, that’s conveyed in the first five minutes, yet the film plays as though we are slowly peeling back layer after layer of the mystery, but all we’re seeing is the same narrative beats repeated over and over again. At the end of the film, a character we’ve known for all of twenty minutes suddenly has this revelation, i.e. flashbacks of unimportant scenes from the rest of the film, all combined as though they have anything meaningful to say. They don’t. The film doesn’t.

If you want to improve the film immensely, stop watching it. Go onto youtube and search “scariest scene from the Grudge”. There should be about five variations of it. Watch them, and you should have all the important parts of the film gotten in about one-tenth of the time. The rest is filler. Bland, unimportant filler, in a bloated film. The kind of shit you watch in the middle of a hangover because your head is pounding and goddammit you don’t have the constitution for anything remotely stimulating.

How’d you get to that hangover? Why, the Ju-On Drinking Game of Course!

Take a drink when: A character looks off screen, appears shocked and frightened, only for the film to cut to whatever thing they’re looking at with JARRING MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT. Take another drink if the character then dies immediately afterward.

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