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Friday, August 27, 2004


Top five things I learned while watching Ju On: The Grudge

The film, the latest to lay claim to the title "most frightening film ever made," just finished a successful one week run at the Cinema 21. Proclamations aside, Ju-On: The Grudge is filled with all sorts of valuable (after)life lessons.

1. If there's anything worse than a ghost, it's a Japanese schoolgirl ghost. If there's anything worse than a Japanese schoolgirl ghost, it's a trio of Japanese schoolgirl ghosts. If there's anything worse than a trio of Japanese schoolgirl ghosts, it's a little kid ghost. If there's anything worse than a little kid ghost, it's a cat ghost. If there's anything worse than a cat ghost, it's a gang of cat ghosts. And if there's anything worse than a gang of cat ghosts, it's a gang of cat ghosts on your bed when you're trying to sleep.

Quick FYI: If you're reading this review alone, after dark, it's too late now. You may as well keep going. Wait...what's that behind you! Could it be a...CAT GHOST??!!!

Sorry. Had to be done. Moving along...

2. If a ghost takes up residence in your community, move.

3. Vengeful spirits, as rule, are unapologetic perverts. They don't think twice about popping up in the shower, under the tables of bustling cafes to peek up skirts, beneath down comforters or even, magically, in blouses. They even enjoy lewd prank calls.

4. When a feisty ghost backs you into a corner, don't fight back with a proton pack or a séance. A game of peek-a-boo will work just fine.

5. No matter how much you nag, and despite all their free time, the dead will never clean-up after themselves. They make terrible roommates.

The "most frightening" claim can be penned on director Sam Raimi, who leant Ju-On a quote to place on movie posters for its US release. So does this little Japanese horor film make the cut? In my opinion, nah. Poltergeist is the once and still reigning champ (possessed clown dolls and haunted, suburban split-levels? Eeep!). If voyeuristic ghouls and things popping out of nowhere are your definition of terrifying, be forewarned.

Ju-On: The Grudge, the third in a on-going series that may conclude with the upcoming, stateside-produced Sarah Michelle Gellar installment, borrows heavily from the Ringu (The Ring) series. The premise centers around angry spirits eager to vent their stress on the living. Rather than just inhabit video tapes, The Grudge's skilled spirits can travel on foot and via televisions, phones and even Buddhist shrines.

The nearly incomprehensible plot (the film is more concerned with scaring the hell out of you than coherence) takes place in haunted house inhabited by an ever-increasing number of angry ghosts. Years prior, a mother, son and their pet feline were murdered in an upstairs bedroom. Now they spend their days attacking anyone who comes near the place.

Comprised of a series of scenes that jump back and forth through time with alternating protagonists, The Grudge is relentless, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Remember the key scene from The Ring? The Grudge has about 30 of them and a final shot that's liable to make some viewer's hearts explode. The film's ending is easily among the horror genre's finest.

The fights and shock cuts come so fast and furious in the film that, despite their genuinely disturbing milieu, it's easy to become immune to the onslaught. By the time the Japanese schoolgirls show up in act three, the audience I saw it with was half laughing at the absurdity with the other half about to wet themselves. Me? I was laughing. Honest.

Despite the numerous flaws, Ju-On: The Grudge deserves the word of mouth that will no doubt pack in audiences in Portland for months. Earlier today, the film bounced from Cinema 21 to the Fox Tower, where it could possibly run through Halloween. If jumping out of a theater seat every thirty seconds for 92 minutes is your idea of a good time, you can't miss this.

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