Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular! #17: Ju-On: The Grudge

We’re presenting a special series of articles this October on Movie Debaters. Every week day we’ll give you a write up of a movie that evokes fear into the viewer and sends chills down the spine. (Or, just, you know movies in the horror/thriller genre.)

We call it The Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular!

Confession time: Back when Japanese horror films were all the rage, specifically, I mean, when Hollywood was adapting Japanese horror movies, I was just beginning my journey as a film nerd. That’s a long sentence to set up the fact that I shunned the Japanese horror movies just because they were popular at the time. I know. It’s terrible. I’ve always had a bit of a hipster streak in me.

Ideally I would have liked to watch Ringu as my first Japanese creepy ghost story movie, but it’s not on Netflix Instant. The Ring movies seemed like the catalyst for the popularity of the subgenre. I remember even at the time that The Grudge remake was considered passe when it was released.

Ju-On: The Grudge is definitely creepy at times, but there’s two things going against it. One is the dated special effects. I don’t care that the quality of the image looked like it was from VHS times. In fact, I kind of liked that. But the CGI in the movie looks really bad. Like almost SyFy channel bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world to have dated CGI. It’s not really something that can be helped. Should the filmmakers travel back in time to fix it? Also, according to Wikipedia Ju-On: The Grudge is actually the third movie in a series. The first two were direct-to-video movies. So I kind of get why the CGI is what it is.

The bigger problem is the narrative structure. I get that the movie was trying to show how one act of violence can perpetuate violence endlessly like a butterfly effect. But since we jump from character to character there’s no real sense of depth to the characters. It’s hard to care for them. Also, maybe it was just me, but the time shifts were hard to keep up with. You really had to pay attention to figure out exactly how each character fit into the timeline.

What I really liked is how the filmmakers used that trick of putting the ghost boy in different parts of the frame where you wouldn’t expect him to be. It’s a great effect because you catch it a split second before the character does. Or the character doesn’t see it at all and you become fearful for the character.

Also that noise the ghosts make? That will never not be creepy.


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