Friday, September 2, 2011

Film #74: Ju-on (2003)

You’re in a committed relationship and want to grow your family.
But what do you choose? 

Cats offer all the responsibilities of raising a human, with none of that mushy love or sass talk.
Kids can actually hug you back, but will eventually tighten that embrace around your throat and seem to live for a lifetime (so much mooching).
What is one to do?

Now, direct from Japan, every wannabe child/pet owner’s dream come true: Toshio! The Haunted CatBoy!
A human boy with cat sensibilities, you’ll get the best of both worlds with dead-as-cat-food Toshio.
He only talks in cat screeches! No more “ma-ma I need a diaper change.” And like both a child and a cat, Toshio promises to try and steal your soul every night. Talk about keeping a parent on their toes! Ahhhh, but cat-boys will be cat-boys, right?!
All this and more is available for just $666.66! Order today by calling 1-800-GRUDGE-ME.

Toshio loved himself his purr-ty little black cat. Oh, they were the best of friends. Which is why you could understand how upset he got when his homicidal father sliced up “Garfield” into more pieces than a pan of lasagna.

But psycho Dad didn’t stop there, moving from the cat to Toshio’s mother Kayako, beating her senseless and then knifing wifey with a scalpel in their Japan-based home. 
Well, when you’re going on a killing spree, you might as well keep it rolling. So after finally offing whittle Toshio himself, Dad walked down the street and stabbed himself to death.

You’d think the killing would end there. But it didn’t. Dad’s spree was so heinous, so visceral and so evil that the events of that day imprinted themselves on their upscale Japanese home.
The ghosts of the fallen, and the rage that killed them, were forever trapped in home sweet home. The joint practically seethed with the rage of the family’s “grudge” that whoever stepped foot in their palace of pain would also get to experience the ghostly torment first hand.

Well, life and death goes on, and soon a new family moves into Toshio and fam’s old stomping ground. It doesn’t take long before The Ju-on (Grudge) family starts freaking the shit out of their new houseguests, including an old invalid Grandmother, who lives in the house with her daughter and husband. 
The Grudge gets the daughter and her hubby, leaving Granny alone, and soon a social worker volunteer named Rika is volunteered to go to the Ju-on home and check in on Mrs. Feeble. 

Anyone who steps foot in the home gets a piece of the pain imprinted on them… a mark that is only followed by a scary death at the hands of Ghost Cat-Boy Toshio and Croaking Broke Neck Ghost Kayako. Or, if you are really special, you might just get a visit from Dear Old Evil Dad and his shiny blade.

Well as sweet and perky as Rika is, it doesn’t stop her and a slew of friends and acquaintances from meeting up with The Ju-on. These are some pissed off ghosts!

Can The Grudge ever be stopped?
What will be the limits of its evil?
Do Cat-Boys wear diapers or use a litter box?

Find out, in the J-horror sensation, 2003’s “Ju-on: The Grudge.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.0
Chris Dimick meow-screams:

“USA! USA! USA! America, f#$k yeah! Living in America! We’re number 1! We’re number 1!
Oh, sorry, I just got caught up in the moment. It is not too often recently that I get to celebrate America, what with our shit-bottomed economy, obesity epidemic, abysmal healthcare system, broken government, and horrendous social attitudes.  So excuse me if I whip out my huge American (flag)pole and wave it brightly as I say the US of A is number 1 in at least one thing – The Grudge storytelling!

After seeing Ju-on, it is clear that the popular American remake of this film, 2004’s The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is superior in every way. We beat the Japanese in WWII, and we beat them again in The Grudge remake (and lost in just about every other way since. Auto industry, anyone?!)
Here are three reasons why the American "The Grudge" is better than the original “Ju-on.” One point for each letter in U. S. A.

1. The Plot:
Ju-on featured a seemingly endless cast of victims who enter the Grudge-stained house and then are scarily dispatched by its ghosts. While interesting to show how the Grudge won’t stop at anything and how easily it can be passed along to others, there are only so many times you can watch Ghost Kayako crabwalk down the house stairs before the act becomes tired.

In the American Grudge, the story focuses in on young social worker Sarah Michelle Gellar, an American living in Japan who is tormented in various ghastly ways after entering the Grudge home to care for an elderly old woman.

This social worker role is included in Ju-on, but only in part. Splitting the plot among so many different people makes the film more complex but less effective… you don’t get to know someone before they are Grudged to death. Focusing on Gellar allows the audience to give a crap that she is being tormented, and also allows us to figure out what the Grudge is, and how to stop it, along with Gellar.
In Ju-on, many things are left unexplained. Why did Daddy go mental? How did he kill his wife and son? 
 What is up with their cat-screams and croaking yells? Is The Grudge unstoppable, or can it be ended somehow?
The American version answers all these questions, leaving the audience more satisfied, or at least less confused.

2. The Ghosts
Sure, the ghosts of Toshio and Kayako are spooky in Ju-on, especially when they get all up in people’s personal space. 
In one scene, ghost Kayako appears suddenly under a woman’s bed sheets as she lifts them to check for spirits. Kayako’s dead, haunting open eyes appear from nowhere, and her ghostly body smothers her victim before pulling her into the sheets and down to hell. Scary personal space invasion.

But when it is all said and done, you see the ghosts so much throughout the film that they start to lose their spook. On second look, it just looks like Japanese people in blue/white makeup. Lame.
But in the American version, the ghost Toshio and Kayako are digitally enhanced with SFXs that make them seem otherworldly. Kayako especially looks freakier than Chaz Bono as she upside-down crab walks down the stairs in the American version. Her movements are CGI, but they are well done to the point that it still looks unnaturally real – just the feel a ghost look should have. Toshio looks just like a painted boy in Jun-on, but in The Grudge he seems almost starved and blank, a true ghost.

3. Acting/direction
It is never a good thing when your actors playing people who are alive act more wooden than the ghosts. Ju-on’s performances were understated and unimpressive. Japanese people are more reserved, so maybe that is part of it, but when the victims were being stalked by the ghosts in Jun-on the people acted only mildly annoyed, and mildly helpless.

In The Grudge, people act crapping-my-pants scared. Gellar turns in a well-rounded performance, and the Ghosts seem scary, not just annoying. The direction and cinematography in Ju-on is equally muted. Nothing special, just straight on shots of painted ghost people in a well light house. Boring. In The Grudge, lighting is a huge factor, as is the Japanese environment itself. Sure, The Grudge can play on the angle of Gellar being lost in a foreign land, but beyond that just the execution of the scares is more inspired than most horror films. 

The score: USA Grudge 3, Japanese Ju-on 0. We won! We won! We won! It’s V-J Day all over again! And this time, we didn’t even have to drop the big one.
Now, if we could just figure out universal healthcare…”

N-Rating: 1.7
Nick Rich cat-screams:
"Yeeeaaahhhh... I've been thinking about this one quite a bit this week and, honestly, I bounced back and forth. The main issues I vacillated on:

  1. Is Ju-on good because it is like life wherein no one seems to be able to escape the spirits (or even able to formulate a plan to do so)? 
  2. Is Ju-on bad because it is like life wherein no one seems to be able to escape the spirits (or even able to formulate a plan to do so)?
I'm a cat lover, but this is a bit ridiculous and,
 coincidentally, Chris' worst nightmare.

Well, as you may have gathered from my rating, I ended up on the bad side of the debate. I found the viewing of this film to be fairly mild, even bordering on boring. Had it not been for chatting with Chris I dare say I would have wandered into full-fledged boredom. There was no story... it just kept meandering along, engulfing victims, none of which had the time or inclination to investigate things and try to battle back. As a viewer I found this lack of a driving plot, especially in a horror movie with an obviously rich back story, preeeetty boring. Yup.

As an American and a man I also found it extremely frustrating that there was nothing the characters could do to fix the problem. The spirits were angry. The spirits killed you if you crossed their path. You died. The end.

Where's the struggle? Where's the investigation? Where's the fight for your life? Where's the calvary? The past couple of days I found I was trying to convince myself that the film might be good because it didn't have a traditional plot, because it was more true to life in its despair and defeat when faced with the unknown...  but that's hogwash! You shouldn't have to tell yourself something is good, it should just be good (well, at least in the case of horror movies).

Cover your eyes! No, REALLY! 

I would definitely say this film was hurt by my having seen the American version, but that is not to say that Ju-on would have been able to stand up on its own had I not seen its overseas brethren. There was just no spark in this flick, which is a pretty impressive feat considering it is a story about ghosts murdering people in surprisingly creepy ways! The main thing the film had going for it, was that it captured a realistic view of what it would be like if there were vengeful ghosts wandering around - the key word being realistic. In some films this is a good thing but in this film it just didn't work. The last thing I want to see is a horror film that mirrors the hopeless banality that life can sometimes assume; while that is a horror of its own, entertaining it is not.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you're sick of movies that are entertaining or if you've ever wondered what the telephone game would look like if you threw ghosts into the mix.

Things We Learned From Ju-on:
-Peek-a-boo is done all over the world.
-Nick is an expert in the size/shape/color of animal feces.
-Rat crap is the size of a fingernail, possum crap the size of your pinkie, and cat crap the size of your thumb. (Seriously, Nick is an expert!)
-Sage advice: When something is good, “It’s good like Sunkist.”
-Never volunteer for anything, ever.
-Nick and Chris have never had to sleep on the couch.
-If you see a ghost, don’t lie down. Run.
-Japan has a very polite society.
-Mel likes to be barefoot and pregnant cooking dinner in the kitchen and fetching Nick beers.

Quote of the Viewing:
[While searching The Grudge house, police find a man and woman dead in the attic, in the exact position grudge-ghost Kayako was found. The man is contorted in a weird pose, his hands and figures seized in a gang-sign fashion.]

Chris: “Looks like he is throwing a gang sign. Do you know which one, Nick?”
Nick: “No.”
Chris: “The Crypts.”

RDHP Presents:

Things in Life You Just Can't Stop:
Much like the ghosts in Ju-on, there are some things in life you just can't escape. No matter how hard you try to avoid them, these horrors refuse to be put in their place, and will not cease until they’re good and ready! Below, we examine those unstoppable forces in our lives.


-Eating something you're not supposed to (dirt, paste, bleach. etc)

-Having an awkward growth phase.

-Going to at least one school dance

-Montezuma's revenge


-Drinking Maker's Mark (oh, wait, is that just Chris?)

-A Woman's Rage

-Attending your child's preschool 'graduation'... and kindergarten... and first grade...... 

RDHP Explores:

Things that Would Never Happen in America, 
but Happened in Ju-on Japan:
Watching the Japanese filmed and set Ju-on made it clear just how different our two countries are. Actually, it made us realize just how jerky Americans are. Below, we examine some of these cultural differences we are more than a little ashamed of by stating things that happen in Japan, but would never happen in American:

1. Apologizing for talking loud on cell phone in public. 
(American says “I was born so I’m entitled to do whatever I want!”)

2. Living above where your work. 
(American says “Where would you drive your SUV to!?”)

3. Sending a volunteer to do social work. 
(American says “Hello lawsuit!”) 

4. Taking care of your elderly parents. 
(American says “That's what nursing homes are for!”) 

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