Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ju-On: The Grudge

   Ju-On is a J-Horror flick with two restless fingers on the piano keys, trying to add spooky atmosphere to a movie that is chronically un-scary. How this movie ever got popular enough to be remade in America is well beyond me. I don't like movies that rely solely on jump scares, but I have a little bit more respect for them now. A good jump scare has to at least... you know, make you jump. The "jump scares" in Ju-On are mind numbingly anti-climactic to the point where they're not startling or creepy or scary. Even worse? This is the kind of scare tactic the movie is hopelessly married to.

   With how hyped up this movie was, and it's reputation for being one of the best J-horror flicks... maybe my expectations were skewed. Nevertheless, it's still a bad sign when things that are supposed to shock you, unnerve you, startle you, or just flat out scare you... end up being legitimately funny. Without the spooky soundtrack, this movie would've been considered a comedy. The ghost of a little boy terrorizes the victims of a curse that passes from person to person. The movie has him pop up in places where he simply couldn't, because y'know... he's a ghost, so it's scary. It's gotta be, right!? WRONG. First of all, the kid isn't scary. What is it with J-Horror flicks and little kid ghosts?

   Samara was creepy, this kid is not. When he shows up, it's not spooky, it's absurd, and not in a good way. Who thought this was a good idea? Moreover, who the hell was scared by this movie? Ringu lived up to its reputation, and Noroi: The Curse blew me away, but Ju-On proved to be nothing but a colossal letdown. Admittedly it had a couple scary moments that were really well done, but even those weren't enough to get under my skin or anything. The movie's structure is also exceptionally odd. Each victim of "the grudge" curse gets their own segment of sorts, which inevitably has some sort of organic segue into the next one. The lack of a conventional story hurts the movie in my opinion, but I can see what they were going for.

   Credit where credit is due, the movie's scares get better in the latter half, as they more creative, but this never salvages the movie, not even a bit. Especially not when so many other movies accomplish with gusto what Ju-On only seems able to try and imitate. I really really wanted to love this movie, I wanted to be spooked and to write a glowing review, singing its praises. But... I don't love this movie. Not even close. Characters behave oddly in inexplicably ways leaving us to wonder if they know they're in a movie. One scene early on sets the tone for the rest of the movie. A social worker/caretaker volunteer of sorts has to make a house call to check in on an old lady and make sure she's okay. As she approaches the house... she rounds the corner, and GASPS, the music flares and based on her reaction I'm half expecting to see a flayed body strung up in the front yard. What did she see?

    The house. Just... the house. Why was she startled? I don't know. The movie never even attempts to explain that one moment. It's full of retarded moments like that, where characters react to nonexistent stuff, for no reason. The "scary" stuff they do have to react to, is so non-scary that all the characters come off as mental. Just the sight of a little kid sends them into a tizzy. How do these people know he's a ghost? At first glance I'd be quicker to assume he's just a malnourished little kid, or a kid in costume paint. In a better horror movie, the shocked reactions wouldn't come right away, they'd come after the kid does something worth being scared about. As it is, he does nothing. At least, nothing that I remember off hand. Which in and of itself should speak volumes about the quality of this movie.

   The movie has arguably become iconic for certain scenes that out of context might certainly seem creepy, but it's a hollow promise because the movie is actually less creepy with context. Some of it's imagery is undeniably effective, and it's sound design is on point, but it amounts to nothing. I'm actually curious to see the american remake a this point just to see what the hell they did. By the time Ju-On tipped its hand, I couldn't give less of a shit. There was a certain point where I just wanted the movie to be over so I could move on to better stuff and wash the taste out of my mouth so to speak. I don't regret watching it, and I've certainly seen worse, but it's totally undeserving of whatever reputation it has. In my opinion? Avoid this mess.

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