As a fan of Ringu and Ju-On (aka The Ring and The Grudge), I was super excited about this movie. In 2016 Ju-On and the Ring may seem predictable and not so scary after so many sequels and common knowledge of what both Sadako and Kayako were capable of. However Ringu was released 18 years ago! I saw the movie in 2001; 15 years ago.
Let me paint a picture of what that was like. I was living in West Haven CT and asian horror movies were not really in video stores or online, back then. I used to take the Metro-North from New Haven to the city. (For those of you not from the tri-state area, which is CT/NY/NJ, we just refer to Manhattan NY as the city. ex. “What are you doing Saturday? I’m going to the city to have lunch, go shopping, see a comedy show etc.)
Anyway, us bridge and tunnelers (which is what Manhattanites used to call those of us who come from NJ and CT to the city via bridges or tunnels. Anyway, I used to go to Chinatown and buy bootleg designer sunglasses, purses etc and I found out about VCD’s. VCD’s are like DVD’s but they hold less data. One movie is broken down into 2 VCD’s. They used to cost about $3. Someone in one of the shops told me, that if I like scary movies, I should check it out.
At that point in my life, my exposure to asian cinema was limited to anime. I’m saying all this for a reason. When I first watched the Ringu, I didn’t know about Japanese yūrei and in Sadako’s case onryō, or how they typically look like a girl with long black hair. So having a little ghost girl as the villain was really interesting. However the thing that caught me off guard was when Sadako crawled out of the TV for the first time, I nearly $h!t! It was so unexpected and iconic.
I feel the same way about the first time Kayako made that cracking noise and crawled down the stairs, or when this happened:
My point is that now we’re all used to movies about yurei, and many American movies have copied elements from those types of movies, but back then when we were first seeing Sadako and Kayako it was good scary times.Since then I’ve seen some of the sequels and the American remakes. I took you on that trip down memory lane, so that you’ll understand my history with these movies. I also got the VCD of Tomie, but I didn’t like that as much as these two.
Let’s get into the subject at hand, though. The movie starts with two parallel stories. One involves two colleges girls who have to deal with Samara’s video tape, and the other involves a teenage girl who moves into the neighborhood a few houses down from the Ju-On house. The two stories eventually merge so that Samara can face Sadako.
This movie has some of the oddest dialog, to me at least. For example this dialog said by the clerk in the thrift shop where the college girls bought the VCR. Why were they buying a VCR in 2016? One of the girls wanted her friend to transfer her parent’s wedding video from VHS to DVD for their anniversary.
“Hey, I sold that VCR with the cursed video in it!” (she says this cheerfully)
“It says you’ll die two days after you watch it!”
“I watched it about two days ago.I guess I’ll die soon!” (giggle, giggle, giggle)
One, none of this is funny. Two, in the Ringu it was 7 days, when did Sadako decide to expedite the process? Also, she doesn’t say “7 Days” when she calls, the phone just makes a high-pitched noise when she calls. Here’s another example:
“You’ve done the most stupid thing.”
“I’ve always been a bit stupid.”
There were some train to stupidville elements. The male psychic medium tells the teenage girl not to go into a cursed house because she’ll die. What do you think she did? Go right in the house. Why? Because it says so in the script. If people didn’t do dumb crap, it would make horror movies harder to write. Also in the script, when you see a scary af ghost chick crawling down the stairs don’t run. Stand there whimpering and by no means try to run away or out of the house.
Despite those two things, the characters were likeable. My favorite character is the little blind girl in the red coat, who is a medium. She worked with the adult male medium to exorcise ghosts. She was like a mini Japanese Daria with psychic ability.
Just like American horror cinema borrows from Asian horror, some Asian movies borrow from American horror movies.There’s a great scene that feels very A Nightmare on Elm Street. A girl is in one place and seems to semi fall asleep and then she’s in a completely different place.
If you’re expecting a Freddy vs Jason feel. This has it, but it almost has more of King Kong vs Godzilla. There was some silly CGI at the end, but it was less than 20 seconds. I wish they hadn’t done it and kept as close to 100% practical as possible.
This movie was a fun watch. The jump scares were effective because there were no false scares and also because of the timing. I may have explained before the difference between American movie jump scares and Japanese/Korean jump scares.
In the US, usually (not always) but most of the time it usually goes tension, misdirect, then jump scare or false scare. Sometimes a false scare is followed immediately by a jump scare. In many Asian horror movies it goes tension then jump scare. There is usually a timing in which we anticipate the jumps scare. In Asian movies they either do it sooner than anticipated so it catches you off guard or later than expected so you can momentarily feel like the scare is not going to happen. A simple difference of timing and the absence of a misdirect makes them more effective.
This is not a masterpiece, but it is fun. If you want a fun ghost slasher movie (I’m calling it slasher as well because of some of the kills), you just might like this.