I'm someone who is just as tired of garbage horror movie remakes as everyone else, but the Ju-On series (the Japanese films, not the American ones) is one of my favorites, so I went to see it so that I could say that I sat through it and write an angry review later about how bad it was.
It wasn't as bad as everyone says.
The main issue that I see with reviews here is the comparison with the 2004 American remake. This film actually calls back more to the original direct-to-video "Ju-On: The Curse" and "Ju-On: The Grudge" than anything else, and people seem to have a lot of the same complaints with those as they do here.
-Confusing, non-linear story? Check.
-Slow, sometimes outright boring pace? Yep.
-Schlock factor? In spades.
-Grim, negative ending? Oh yeah.
-Unbeatable antagonist? She's here too.
But the thing is, these are hallmarks of the original movies. The first Ju-On film was made in 2000 on a half-shoestring budget and a camera that was outdated even for its time. Takashi Shimizu wrote it to be an answer to "Ringu," but with elements that scared HIM specifically. It certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, but those who enjoy it completely unironically understand this film (the one that this review is actually about). It calls back, sometimes recreating shots, from both "The Curse" and "The Grudge," but manages to be its own film at the same time. It has a good concept: "What would happen if someone brought the Ju-On curse back to America?" And it, in my opinion, it nails this concept perfectly, bringing us characters who are completely clueless as to the nature of the evil that they're fighting against and often rendered completely helpless by their ignorance. As if anyone was ever able to effectively fight back in the first place.
There are a lot of references to the origins of the Ju-On story, such as repeated usage of the number four. Four, in Japanese, sounds just like the word for "death" and is, as such, considered unlucky. One of the first times that the Ju-On spirit as we know her ever appeared was in a short film called 444-444-4444. In the 2020 film, 44 is the main protagonist's street address, people wake up at 4:44 in the morning, ect. And this trope is also inverted, using 999 as the police department's street address, a subtle nod to westerners' aversion to the number 666.
A lot of the events in this film mirror the events in both "The Curse" and "The Grudge," which I thought was pretty cool to see in a modern, higher-budget setting. The scene with the Ju-On spirit hovering over the elderly lady, the character with their jaw ripped off, the infamous bed scene, and of course the murders that cement The Grudge House as the central hub for the curse in the film's location are all there, though slightly tweaked to give it the feel of both history repeating itself and a new set of circumstances playing out. I also thought that making the mother the original murderer this time was a nice touch, as you don't really see a lot of women brutally murder their children in media.
I feel, though it is very predictable in some ways and sometimes comes across as almost silly, this film had a lot of affection and respect for its roots. The people who worked on it obviously loved the cheap, v-cinema drivel that was the original film. It manages, throughout everything, to have that unsettling atmosphere and the impressive camerawork that the original had, and the soundtrack was perfect. The end credits play in silence, the sound of the protagonist's final screams allowed to echo in you mind for a good minute before any music plays, and when it does show up, the song performed by Dead Sara is a wonderful thrill of noise.
This film feels like a love letter to its predecessor in the same way Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" serenaded Satoshi Kon's "Perfect Blue." It's good fun inspired by classic fear, in a way that only the biggest nerds of the genre will truly understand. This is a film that's going to pass through theaters quietly and with horrible reviews, but will be treasured by the hardcore fans for years to come.
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