[Movie Review] Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) ★★★★☆

Hitomi scared by Kayako and Toshio in bed in Ju-on The Grudge 2002

Ju-on: The Grudge returns with an even darker and sinister vengeance.

Ju-on: The Grudge is the third installment of the Japanese horror franchise about a terrible curse with vengeful spirits. It’s the first film to get a theatrical release and that shows. The cinematography and the storytelling are smoother and look better. Although told in a non-chronological order of events and through different characters, dividing the film into different segments, the film feels more coherent and therefore gripping. 

This time the tone is much darker and scarier than the first two films and introduces a few iconic scenes and sound effects that will haunt you long after the film has finished, if it ever does…


Rika is a social worker who is sent to the home of the Tokunga family, former residence of the Saeki family. Katsuya lives there with his wife Kazumi and his elderly mother Sachie who needs care. When Rika arrives at the house, it’s the same house in Nerima where Kayako was murdered by her husband Takeo. He also killed the cat Mar and Toshio the six year old son went missing, but was probably killed sometime too. 

Now Rika, Katsuya, Kazumi, Sachie and Katsuya’s sister Hitomi are the new victims of the curse that is uphold by the Saeki family including the cat. 

But also Toyama the detective who was put on one of the murder cases and missing persons that had to do with the house, is dragged back into the curse. He and his daughter Izumi get affected as well. The curse lingers on, never to be broken.

Why you should watch it

This third installment is more accessible than its predecessors due to its solid cinematography, big scares, creepiness and darker tone and smoother storyline. It starts with a little flashback of the murder of Kayako. It’s more graphic and gruesome and sets a far more darker tone, although these kind of graphic gruesome images aren’t repeated throughout the rest of the film. 

The scares are leveled up as well. With original shots, original kills the creepiness surmounts its original tropes, but along the way invents new iconic scenes, shots and sound effects that will haunt you. 

Each segment has an even slighter difference in tone and atmosphere, causing the segments to blend into the overall story in a more understandable and organic way. That makes it an easier and more agreeable watch. Also this causes to let the scares stand out more. 

It starts with Rika who has to take care of Sachie. By then both Kazumi and Tatsuya are already missing. When after a pretty scary ordeal Rika faints we get to learn more of the disappearances of the three missing Tokunga’s. With Hitomi’s part being the most engrossing and scary which brings some creepy original shots. 

Then we jump to Toyama and we are shown a piece of the surveillance footage we didn’t get to see earlier because Hitomi ran away. In this way the different characters and their different experiences together make up the whole story, served to us in small pieces to keep things a bit mysterious. This also goes for his search into the house, where he encounters his daughter Izumi when she is 10 years older than she is now. It’s a strange vision, that will be explained in the section of Izumi herself. In her section we learn that not only her father had died a while ago, but that Rika recently was found dead at the attic at the Nerima house. 

Only in the last segment it is shown what happened to Rika and how she met her final terrible fate. And that has a little surprise for us. 

Although this film stays true to its original structure, the segments are far better intertwined with each other making it an enthralling story that at the end fits together with all its scariness and elusiveness. 

This film is also connected in a really fun and surprising way with the second film. The last segment of the Ju-on: The Curse 2 was titled “Saito”. It looked like it was a new girl who lived there. But now it has been revealed that Saito was a school girl and friend of Izumi who went missing with two other friends after spending time in the house. Izumi was there too, but due to a terrible foreboding feeling she fled the house, having a vision of her father in the process. So this film really connects all the previous films in a surprising and natural way. 

Although we know how the curse works and spreads, nothing more of the mythology behind it is explored. We only witness what happened to those unfortunate people who enter the doomed haunted house.

My favorite part

The segment of Hitomi has some original scares for us. The lift scene and the bed scene have become iconic scenes. But so has the shower scene with Rika. And the stairs scene has become much more scary than when we first saw Kayako crawling down the stairs. 

The film makes use of little means to scare, but they are used in the most effective ways. And although this film has more budget it still relies on atmospheric terror and creepy ideas that are simple but all too scary. The best example being the old man who is playing peek-a-boo with an invisible kid who remains near Rika. And although we all know it is Toshio, we don’t get to see him playing. But that’s only the beginning of that innocent child’s play, because it proves to be a repeating motif in the film that spirals out of control when Rika finally finds out what is going on. I dare you to play peek-a-boo in a mirror right now.


Rating: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★★☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆

Read more about Ju-on:

Cast and crew

Ju-on: The Grudge is directed and written by Takashi Shimizu. It stars Megumi Okina (Rika), Misa Uehara (Izumi), Takako Fuji (Kayako), Yuya Ozeki (Toshio), Takashi Matsuyama (Takeo), Kanji Tsuda (Katsuya), Shuri Matsuda (Kazumi), Misak Ito (Hitomi) and Yōji Tanaka (Tôyama). 

Duration: 92 minutes. Music: Shiro Sato. Cinematography: Tokusho Kikumura. Edited by: Nobuyuki Takahashi. Produced by: Taka Ichise. Production companies: Pioneer LCD, Nikkatsu, Oz Co., Xanadeux. Distributed by: Lions Gate Films.

Check the trailer below

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