After a husband brutally murders his wife, the dark energy released creates a supernatural power, or curse, that will destroy anyone who dares to set foot in its realm. The energy, like a virus or disease, slowly begins to spread until no one is left untouched.
The structure of Ju-on is six short(ish) vignettes with overlapping and interconnected stories which have something in common with a peculiar house in a rundown ward. The house is the site of the grisly murders which unleash the powerful curse. The result is a more or less linear, episodic effort.
This occasionally works as a disadvantage for the non-Japanese speaking audience, who may already be struggling to keep up with the dialogue. That the story also has no central character which would tie all of the vignettes together – beside the dark energy that manifests itself into semi-physical form (not to be mistaken with ghosts) – it is easy to become somewhat disoriented during the film. This creates an overall feeling that there’s too much going on for a film with a scant 92 minute run time.
The vignette structure, which can be an effective and entertaining storytelling method for connecting many tales into one large epic adventure, then breaks down here. In addition, the pacing is, at times, very slow.
Ju-on can be a rather schizophrenic affair, but a worthwhile one all the same.
Shock value abounds in Ju-on, creating some memorably scary moments. Auditory clues for things amiss or about to go terribly wrong for its characters are the mewling of cats and the crushed-throat-growling of the disembodied woman. The sound work in Ju-on is great and I almost guarantee you, you will probably be mimicking the death rattle for days after seeing the film. It’s good horror film fun, and one of the things that Ju-on does exceptionally well.
The ambiguous, open-ended finale is a little anti-climatic, but shines when compared with Shimizu’s alternate ending (available on the rental disc of the DVD). Ju-on does succeed at serving up some solid thrills. For those with a predilection for the supernatural, Ju-on is a great addition to your watch list.
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