In the tradition of the American film market, Ju-Rei: the Uncanny is nearly a carbon copy of the huge success, Takashi Shimizu's Ju-on: the Grudge. Riding the tidal wave of success that Japanese "Kaidan" films have created in the major film markets, Ju-Rei was undoubtedly released to milk a cash cow that should be squirting powder by now. However, the fact that this film is completely unoriginal only slightly damages the credibility it gains for being a very well made movie.
Told in a descending chapter sequence (from 10 to 1), Ju-Rei chronicles the claiming of lives by a begrudging spirit that travels from host to host. Anyone that comes into contact with the spirit directly, or in contact with someone that has seen the spirit, will ultimately meet their doom in a classic "jump point" moment that in certain instances dwarfs the scary points of Shimizu's blockbuster. I kept a hand count of how many times I jumped and the end result was 3. A big enough number to make this cheesy Japanese knock off a better than average title.
Another attribute that wins Ju-Rei quality points with the viewer is that the story is told in a very linear and easy to follow manner. Working in a similar fashion to "Memento", the film starts out at the end of the story and progresses forward (or backwards) to the evil; spirit's point of origin. Although there is very little character development, or centralized group of persons to familiarize with, Ju-Rei manages to suck the viewer in with a flowing story that keeps the audience locked in on a continuous flowing theme. Each person that meets the ill fated "surprise death" is related in some fashion to the spirit's preceding kill, and so when the spirit shows itself in the form of the former victim the viewer knows that the previous chapter is going to detail how that person met their maker. You follow me?
**Take for instance if Head Cheeze is sitting in his living room watching his favorite re-runs of Melrose Place. Jostling around in his tub of popcorn, he hears a strange clicking noise coming from the corner of the room. Thinking that it's only his overweight cat trying to lick its nether-regions, Head Cheeze pays it no mind. However, the noise persists and Head Cheeze can't help but to investigate the noise. To his horror, he finds that the ghostly figure of Big McLargehuge is crouched in the corner. Big slowly lifts his head and the Cheeze screams, thus ending the chapter. We then move on to the previous chapter which shows Big having a similar run in with the spirit in a different form.**
A simple formula when broken down, Ju-Rei makes for an enjoyable film. Although not as graphic as one might expect (or crave), the tale itself and the ghastly appearances suffice the audience's craving for a solid horror film. Unfortunately, Pathfinder does absolutely NOTHING to juice up the movie's release by including ZERO special features on the disc for us fanatics to play with. I guess that's what you get when a flick is released for $15 solely to move volume rather than establish a credible title.
Lack of extras aside, Ju-Rei is a nice little addition to the Asian film fans collection and is even suitable for the younger viewers being trained for the more hardcore material. The scare points are often unexpected and the results are of genuine fear, which ultimately makes this film a worthwhile expedition in my eyes.