Clearly the second best horror movie to come out of Japan (Sorry, but Battle Royale will never be undermined), Ju-on is the type of flick that will burn the embers of terror for days after its initial viewing. The night that my wife and I watched this movie we clung to the arms of the couch and cringed at the abnormal sounds emanating from the widescreen. I don't hesitate to say that Ju-on is unlike any movie you have ever seen.
Set against the story of a "haunted" house, Ju-on is the apex of revenge stories. The opening scene loosely depicts a father losing his mind and murdering his wife. He then decides to take the family cat and his son and lock them in the bedroom closet. Cut to present day Japan where Rika, a social worker, is assigned to the case of an elderly woman taking up residence in the said house. Rika visits the old woman only to find her in a catatonic state, sitting in a hulking mass of her own feces. The house is in shambles and it is Rika's duty to see that the old woman has a fit environment to live in. Whilst Rika is cleaning the house, she stumbles upon a small boy that she has no recollection of living there. What follows is a disorganized series of events pitting the vengeance of the house against any person that comes into contact with Rika.
For some, Ju-on may take 2 viewings to really digest the happenings and sequences that flash before the eye. For one, the movie is shot in a Reservoir Dogs fashion, where the story follows a particular character, rather than a set time scheme. So the person that you see die first in the sequence of events may actually die last when following a timeline. There is also the terror factor of Ju-on, which may be hard to stomach for those of you that had a hard time digesting the Ring, or Dark Water. Director Takashi Shimizu relies heavily on sound distortion and the use of those creepy little bastard kids to drive home the notion of fear. Fear is an incredible element of the movie and sometimes becomes a distraction from the main story. All kidding aside, I am terrified of this movie and have never been so restless as the night I watched it.
As a whole, there are no visual effects that will parallel the likes of Lucas or Raimi, but the use of camera trickery is effective in the spots that it is used. There's one scene where Rika is lying in bed and she opens her eyes to see the creepy Toshio standing over her. The camera pans out and we get a glimpse of the uber scary Izumi crawling down the wall to lean over Rika's face. It's then underexposure like that shot that creates the terror, and makes the sparsely used FX more appreciated.
I know I sound redundant in my reviews for most Japanese horror movies, but you have to believe that the Far East practices a method of instilling fear that us Americans will never grasp. Less is more. That means the less I see, the more I get scared. Gore is nice, but having my wife wake up screaming 4 times in a nite gives me a greater sense of appreciation for a film like Ju-on.