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blog.gkaindl.com » Do you have a Grudge?

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Do you have a Grudge?

Ju-On

This weekend, I watched all 6 movies from the Ju-On/The Grudge series (by Takashi Shimizu) together with my girlfriend. These movies are amazingly creepy! If you can get a your hands on them and are at least somewhat interested in non-gory horror movies, you should really check them out.

The background story behind the 6 movies is pretty interesting (you can read more about it here on Wikipedia): The first 2 movies (Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2) were direct-to-video releases, but spread so widely through word-of-mouth recommendations that they were adapted for the cinema a few years later, spawning Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2. Both of them were shot with Japanese actors only and were, again, pretty successful. Additionally, there have been two adaptations for international audiences (starring, amongst others, Sarah Michelle Gellar): The Grudge and The Grudge 2. Two more movies (The Grudge 3 and Ju-On: The Grudge 3) are currently in production stages. Yes, it’s pretty confusing…

I won’t give away the story here (as a super-short summary, it’s about a house haunted by the ghost of the housewife that was horrible killed there together with her little son), but it’s interesting to note that not a single one of the 6 movies is a remake of another; They’re rather telling different stories branches. Additionally, it was quite interesting to see that I’m (as a European) apparently lacking some understanding of the cultural codes that are used in the Japanese versions: They seem to be confusing (both in structure and content), there are lots of ambiguities and references to Japanese mysticism that “feel” as if there was more to them than is given away in the movie. I assume that these scenes reference knowledge and lore that is common in Japan, but that I am unaware of. However, having seen the American remakes sets up a framework in which some of the elements of the Japanese versions are explained or expanded in ways that help to understand the Japanese versions better. It’s quite a good example of how cultural differences affect the interpretation of movies. For example, even the structure of the movies is quite different: The Japanese installments are narrated in an episodic, non-linear way in which each episode refers to the story of a particular victim of the vengeful ghost (by the way, a common theme in Japanese horror movies), culminating in the story of how the first victim, the housewife who turned into the ghost, was murdered. The episodes are sometimes broken up into multiple chunks shown at different times during the movie, they go back and forth in time, sometimes overlap and sometimes even retroactively influence previous episodes. It can be quite confusing. The American/International versions, on the other hand, are rather linear stories in which someone is introduced to the ghost in the beginning of the movie, then spends the rest of the movie trying to do research on the curse, then ultimately becomes another victim of the ghost: A pretty common structure in Western horror movies. Nevertheless (and maybe because all movies feature the same director), they retain a Japanese feel to them.

Apart from the interesting comparisons among the different versions, I’m a big fan of the ghost’s “signature” sound: A throaty, rattling croaking sound (You can hear it when you visit this site and have Flash enabled). It works amazingly well to establish atmosphere and instill suspense and even fear into the audience. It’s distinctively human, yet still a sound that one cannot intuitively associate with an image. Unlike the roaring chain-saw sounds or metallic rattles in other horror movies (that immediately give away what the audience has to expect), it’s a mysterious, eerie cue that something is seriously wrong, but it doesn’t refer to means of physical harm: You’re left in the dark on what to expect. It’s still not a generic “wooing” or groaning sound as it gets sometimes used in other movies: It’s a true “signature” sound (Spoiler-Warning: It’s revealed later that the sound stems from the rattling breathing noises the dying housewives makes after her husband has snapped her neck).

If you like this sort of movie and manage to get your hands on them, check them out. It’s worth it.

3 Comments

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    chainsaw
    wrote on Jul 05, 2007 at 12:50

    I had no idea there were six different movies in the Ju-On series, and I think it’s really interesting how none of the six are actual remakes. I always assumed the Sarah Michelle Gellar version was simply a translation of the original Japanese movie. But it sounds like instead the movies are more retellings of the story instead of literal remakes. That’s something that seems to be a very Japanese thing – I’ve seen Japanese movies based on television series that feature the same characters and basic plot but with very different twists and settings. It’s really interesting to see how these retellings compare, and I’d love to watch all six Grudge / Ju-On movies to see how they stack up against each other. I’m really interested in how the originals and the cinema versions stack up against each other. Do you know why they didn’t simply release or re-film the original two movies instead of creating new ones?


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    georg
    wrote on Jul 05, 2007 at 15:13

    One reason is that the TV versions appear to be shot in 4:3 and with a rather low budget. Another noticeable difference is that in the TV version, the individual episodes are more centered around the characters of the victims, whereas the cinematic versions revolve more around the concept of the haunted house. Thusly, they appear to be a bit more coherent, which definitely makes the story easier to follow.

    The American versions are both based on events happening in the first Japanese cinematic version (with some additional concepts and “typical American horror movie” themes thrown in), whereas Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (the second Japanese installment for the cinema) introduces completely new material that doesn’t appear in either American installment. However, there’s much more of Japanese symbolism that makes parts of the movie hard to understand (for example, concepts of reincarnation and karma). If you can only get one of the Japanese movies, I’d still suggest getting this one, as it adds most to whole mythology.


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    oil paintings from photos
    wrote on Aug 17, 2007 at 9:22

    I heard that these movies were really scary. But I don’t want to confirm that or else I might find it hard to sleep at night for a week. I’ve known that Japanese horror films are really scary. Not only are these people great with prosthetics, they’re also good in the so-called timing. They know it when to break a glass, when to let go of a scream, and most of all they know when the exact time to show off a scary figure is.

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Hi, how are you? My name is Georg Kaindl, and I'm a twenty-something from Vienna, Austria. During the day, I'm a CS student at the Vienna University of Technology, but at night, I turn into an independent software developer for the Macintosh platform, social nerd, lazy entrepreneur and intuitive researcher.

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