Quick-Thoughts: Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on The Grudge 1 and 2 (2002-2003)

Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

If this third entry proves anything, it’s that Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on material clearly works best with an extremely low-budget and cryptic atmosphere, not with a slightly more commercial appearance and a louder clarification of what’s going on, given that the scares sort of primarily function best at their most irrational. 

Ju-on: The Grudge is no Ju-on: The Curse (2000), but it is *faintly* better than their middle partner Ju-on: The Curse 2 (2000). The longer sequences harken back to the original Curse’s tense formula, but at times, harken too much to a point of self-plagiarism like the film’s finale which is essentially a nod back to the teacher story from The Curse. This ending also subsequently spells-out even further the context at hand in an uninspired flashback montage, as if the opening of the movie’s flashback didn’t “spoil” us with enough clarification already. Conclusively, The Grudge is literally just an easier to comprehend version of The Curse, but that counteractively removes some of the tempting mystery for which made that movie captivating to begin with. This third entry is, to my surprise, not even remotely as unhinged or graphic as the first one too. 

Nonetheless, I do think The Grudge has a couple excellent scares, some almost up to par with the best of The Curse. The use of television static works, especially in its last implication where the screen goes entirely black and we get that jolting reveal. The artificial look of the new shadow figures for the corpses make the environments all the more unearthly and therefore uncomfortable for us as well — welcome to Hell! The entire apartment building sequence with Misaki Ito is definitely a top-tier progression in the franchise. But then again, a lot of scares here are just using pre-established creepy traits that we already know of like the grumbling or the pale faces, deteriorating their effect movie by movie. Also, I get that the cat sounds in this franchise can sometimes be off-putting, sure, but the entire presence of cats? Never. Quite frankly the opposite.

Verdict: C

Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2003)

Yo, ghouls always be eventually learning how to foreshadow and therefore up the quality of their scares; that’s beautiful.

Without a doubt, this the most straightforward Ju-on entry until for some reason the final twenty minutes just decide to go full “let’s give the audience a sudden Enter the Void (2009) mild brain-f**k” mode and earn itself as the most interesting segment from it all. Nonetheless, for a majority of The Grudge 2, its focus is basically on a single streamline, making it the slowest paced of the films so far, especially since it’s still only working off of the already established curse narrative being introduced to new victims, and making the hallmark use of character chapters seem pointless this time around.

Although, it does appear to be that this fourth Ju-on is Takashi Shimizu’s New Nightmare (1994) attempt given the almost meta settings of horror movie productions, and perhaps also his Rosemary’s Baby (1968) attempt given the birth elements for which he delegates as central to the narrative, so in a way, part of me appreciates how this sequel administers already known cinematic horror concepts yet unknown concepts to the franchise into this film more so than the previous two sequels did — though I guess it reveals Shimizu’s desperation to keep things fresh also. Howbeit, the scares which were the prime selling points of those other sequels are clearly lacking here.

The whole “something’s there and then it’s not” scare tactic has clearly begun to wear off on me, and it’s particularly over-utilized in this movie. I must admit though, the imagery of the hair-wall with Kayako’s face on it is absurdly haunting, but I can’t think of anything else that latched onto my memory that well in terms of keeping me up at night, which blows cause The Curse (2000) had like at least ten of those. 

Lastly, why does Shimizu introducing ectoplasm to the rules of the franchise low-key feel like him warming up for his American remake? So goofy.

Verdict: C-

“Ju-on: The Grudge” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime and “Ju-on: The Grudge 2” is now available to stream on Tubi.

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