Ju-on: The Curse unleashes its vengefulness with little means and full effect.
Ju-on: The Curse is a Japanese supernatural horror film about a sinister curse. Although this first installment of a very much alive franchise, and a direct to video film isn’t that well-known as the third installment Ju-on: The Grudge that had its own theatrical release and an American remake, it really brought Kayako and her malicious revenge to life.
“Ju-on is a curse born of a strong grudge held by someone who died. The place of his death gathers his grudge. Anyone who comes in contact with this curse shall lose his life, and a new curse is born.”
Still this first film is where it all started. With a non-chronological narrative, different characters through time, a sinister story is born. With a low budget, a small amount of blood, a much creepy atmosphere and a very shocking and violent scene, this is the beginning of a true vengeful story.
It starts with an elementary teacher Shunsuke Kobayashi who worries about one of his kids Toshio who hasn’t come to school for a few days. When he goes to his house, only Toshio is home and Kobayashi worries even more and goes exploring the house, after a strange conversation he hears Toshio having with someone.
A few years later another family, the Murakami’s have moved into the house. They and everybody who spent much time in the house fall victim to the terrible curse. Daughter Kanna, son Tsuyoshi and his girlfriend Mizuho and her tutor Yuki, all await a terrible fate.
Through different characters and through time we learn what happened to Toshio’s mother Kayako and how the curse was brought upon the house.
Why you should watch it
Although it’s a direct to video film and low budget and has sometimes a bit of an amateurish quality about it, it still is a very scary and gruesome film. The six segments each tell the story of a character who either lived in the house or spent time there. These are pieces of the puzzle that will be unraveled at the end of the film. Each piece has a slightly different tone and atmosphere building up the tension and suspense creating a horrifying story. Although not with many words it is explained what happened and how the curse came to be.
With a lot of tension and atmosphere using great camera angles to increase the creepiness the horrifying curse becomes all too real. But there are a few gruesome scenes as well. Although no death is shown on screen, what precedes it, is very much horrifying. A girl with a missing jaw is one of them and shot with great suspense and a shocking final shot.
But the most shocking of all and the most gruesome and violent is Seiko’s final act. Although not explicitly shown, the knowledge of what he is doing is sickening and something you didn’t expect from an atmospheric film. It really is too horrible to even think about what he did.
The story itself is simple, but in choosing different characters to tell the story in fragments, putting eventually the whole story together is greatly done. This creates a mysterious vibe, and a story that’s not straightforward and has some terrible surprises up its sleeve. Some familiar scenes, the crawling down the stairs, the arms through the bars, the creepy cat sounds and creepy white Toshio became horror icons throughout the franchise.
My favorite part
Toshio might well be one of the scariest kids in horror films. His behavior, his appearance which are so creepy and surreal it gives me the creeps every time. He isn’t a mere jump scare but a frightening figure that shows up to really scare you. The use of letting out most explicit graphic scenes, leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer, makes it all the more terrifying.
Also the last segment of the brother who bought the house after the Murakami family to sell it, and his sister who might be a medium, tells us a bit more about the folklore which makes it more interesting and we know it’s far from over.
Scare factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Read more about Ju-on:
- Ju-on: The Curse 2 (2000) review
- Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) review
- Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2003) review
- Ju-on: Origins season 1 review
Cast and crew
Ju-on: The Curse is directed and written by Takashi Shimizu. It stars Yūrei Yanagi (Kobayashi), Chiaki Kuriyama (Mizuho), Hitomi Miwa (Yuki), Asumi Miwa (Kanna), Ryōta Koyama (Toshio), Takako Fuji (Kayako), Takashi Matsuyama (Takeo), Kazushi Andō (Tsuyoshi), Yūko Daike (Kyoko), and Makoto Ashikawa (Tatsuya).
Duration: 70 minutes. Music: Geirȋ Ashiya. Cinematography: Nobuhito Kisuki. Produced by: Takashige Ichise, Kazuo Katō, Masaaki Takashima. Production company: Toei Video Company.