I am a big fan of Sam Raimi’s 2004 film The Grudge, which is based on this film. In life, the originals are basically always better than a remake. Naturally, being a huge fan of Japan and Japanese film and TV, I assumed I was going to love the heck out of this movie.
There are a few exceptions to this rule though : any version of “Take On Me”, particularly the Reel Big Fish one or Ellie’s cover in The Last Of Us 2. The cover of “Under Pressure” by The Used and My Chemical Romance is way better than the original. Don’t @ me. I’m kidding, please @ me, I need the views and the attention. Much to my surprise, I’m adding the American remake of Ju-On to this list.
Maybe it’s a victim of hype. I’ve wanted to see this film forever. I remember seeing it in a video store (remember those?) sometime around 2005-2006. I wasn’t old enough to have a card of my own then and mom wouldn’t let me get it. She is uncultured and doesn’t enjoy foreign films. That was the only time I ever saw it. I couldn’t find it on DVD, Video, online or, later in life, to stream. Before you ask, no, I will not watch a pirated copy or download an illegal version. Not a fan of piracy.
With Raimi’s version, it was readily available to me. I purchased it, watched it and loved it. There was no hype building up inside me for almost 20 years. I haven’t seen it for over 10 years, but I remember it fondly. I also remember being creeped out by the appearance of the ghosts. I’m very rarely creeped out by things on the tv.
Anyway, I assume because of the recent Netflix series “Ju-On Origins”, Ju-on : The Grudge 1&2 are now available to stream, buy online or at my local DVD store. So, I finally got to watch them and will share my thoughts.
Before I do though, I want to give you a quick cinematic timeline. There are multiple Ju-On films and it is a tad daunting to join in the franchise. After some heavy reading, I have a solid understanding of the release order of the films.
In 1998, Takashi Shimizu made 2 short films ; Katasumi and 4444444444 (called 10 fours). They are about 3 minutes each and can be found on YouTube. This is the beginning of the franchise.
In the year 2000, Shimizu made Ju-On : The Curse and Ju-On : The Curse 2. These were released direct to video in Japan and extended on the lore of his 2 short films. It set up the history of the haunted house, which is the setting of most films.
In 2002, we get the cinematic release of Ju-On : The Grudge and Ju-On : The Grudge 2. The most well known of the films, I’ll get to them in a little bit.
Sam Raimi took over in 2004 with “The Grudge”. In order to remain faithful to the original, he hired Shimizu to be the director. The duo followed up with “The Grudge 2” in 2006.
In 2009, we got three new instalments in the franchise. In America, we received “The Grudge 3”, no longer a project of Raimi and Shimizu. In Japan, there was the release of Ju-On : White Ghost and Ju-On : Black Ghost. They are stand alone films, designed to expand the franchise beyond the house and the curse we have become familiar with.
In 2014, there was Ju-On : The Beginning of the End. In 2015, Ju-On: The Final Curse. Both of these were considered bad movies and not received well.
In 2016 (I just found about this) the world was treated to Sadako vs Kayako. Sadako is the spirit from Ringu and Kayako is obviously from Ju-On. I cannot wait to see this film.
Then, in 2020 we got the Origin series on Netflix and the new Grudge film. I still haven’t seen either, but the new movie has my boys Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert on production. Nice.
Ok, now we are all up to speed on the films and their release order, I can dive into my thoughts on Ju-On : The Grudge.
If I could do it in a word, it would be confusing. The plot was presented in a non-linear way, which I am personally, never a big fan of. Why can’t we just start the story at the start and finish at the end? I struggled to keep up. I was spending too much time trying to piece the order together and as result would lose focus to the scares happening on the screen.
It was hard to remember which character was which and what their connection to one another was. I don’t know if the point was to be incoherent so you would pay more attention to the spirit of Toshio and Kayako and less attention to their victims. I guess that would make sense, because the film lacked any real central character or “hero” The story just felt like it was disjointed and all over the place. Which, I guess it was. I’ll give it points for being original, but sometimes a formula is a good thing to have.
I have read a a few summaries of the plot and read about everything that happened in a chronological order, rather than the cinematic version. It still took a bit to get my head around. I will probably rewatch this later tonight with my newfound knowledge and see if I can make more sense of it.
That being said, I did enjoy it. It just wasn’t what I had hoped for. As I mentioned at the start of this, maybe I had just hyped myself up for so long it was doomed to fail. I think the story was really cool, once I broke it down and got a better understanding of it. The visuals and sound effects were creepy and unsettling, but again, not as frightening as I expected. Maybe it was less scary because I watched with friends. When I watched Sam Raimi’s Grudge, I lived alone.
If I had to rate it, which you know I hate, it would be right in the middle of whatever scale I used. I can appreciate it for being a great horror story and the creepy spirits within it. It did startle one of my friends a few times, so it definitely has the scare factor to it. I just think they diluted their own story too much by dissecting it and showing it out of order. It is worth watching though, you can decide for yourself and let me know what you thought of it!