Juon: The Grudge (2002) Movie Review
Written By: YN
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Producers: Taka Ichise
Writers: Takashi Shimizu
Date Released: October 18, 2002
Megumi Okina as Rika Nishina
Misa Uehara as Izumi Toyama
Tomomi Kobayashi as Young Izumi
Misaki Ito as Hitomi Tokunaga
Yui Ichikawa as Chiharu
Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
Yuya Ozeki as Toshio Saeki
Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki
Yōji Tanaka as Yûji Tôyama
Kanji Tsuda as Katsuya Tokunaga
Shuri Matsuda as Kazumi Tokunaga
Kayoko Shibata as Mariko Uki
Hirokazu Inoue as Detective Kenichi Nakagawa
Daisuke Honda as Detective Daisuke Igarashi
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Nika Nishina is sent by her boss to take care of an old woman living alone in a house. There, she witnesses strange things including the death of the old woman, who is killed by a peculiar shadow of another lady. However, Rika faints before she can fully see the mysterious figure’s face. Upon waking, she learns of the malevolent spirits of a mother and her son who haunt anyone who enters the house. As the mother-son duo begins to claim more and more lives, Rika’s turn is soon to be next.
The film begins with a gruesome scene, playing out in a surreal-like sequence. The stark redness of the blood stands out from the glaring lights. The sound jars, an incessant annoying background, as you witness the murder of the mother and son by the father. Then, everything goes dark. The main plot begins. The first scene will remain the most violent and bloodiest one throughout the film. In fact, it’s the only one. The rest is full of tension-buildup, jumpscares, and bone-chilling ghost sightings.
The Grave Review
There is a reason why Juon: The Grudge (2002) has received such worldwide fame. The movie’s ghosts have been featured in remakes, parodies, sequels, and an upcoming series. In fact, the whole film is iconic in a sense that the ghosts’ appearances are unforgettable; the background music and sound are unique; its jumpscares scenes are memorable; and the backstory of the spirits is intriguing. Nonetheless, the film has its own downside, and it all points to the disjointed narration, nebulous plotline, and abrupt character changes.
From start to finish, the movie does not let up with the tension-build up. It starts with the terrifying and bloody opening sequence of the death of the mother and son, and it just never seems to stop. There is an air of unease because their spirits are always there, barely hiding in the shadows, in the closet, behind doors, at the other side of the windows, under the blanket, and anywhere else. These are the ghosts that don’t want to be ignored. This is even made more effective by their completely white skin and dark, abyss-like eyes. Even at the periphery of your vision, you can just see them staring back at you accusingly.
These scenes are often accompanied by these rattling, croaking sound that is often made by a person at the precipice of dying. Often, when the ghosts are about to appear, all other sounds in the movie quiets down and only the death rattle can be heard. The chilling silence and the magnified sound of someone coming closer and closer to the victim almost makes it feel like the whole world and you are holding their breath for that terrifying moment. And when it does come, the music rises into a crescendo like a sucker punch to your chest.
And of course, the most terrifying are the ghosts’ appearance. While there’s nothing fancy or over the top about them, their completely white faces and black, wide eyes would forever be ingrained on your retinas. In fact, Takako Fuji, the actress that plays the ghost mom, does it so terrifyingly without even uttering a word. Her eyes do all the scaring and haunting. They alone will force you to look away or cover your own eyes.
What the film lacks, however, is a smooth flowing narrative. The abrupt changes and sudden addition of characters after characters after characters can get confusing at times. The film never tries to explain anything to the viewers, so it’s up to you how you can connect one story to another. It almost feels like a connected anthology within a movie, except this one doesn’t give much time in introducing who these characters are. You are simply thrown into the middle of things where these people are being haunted and killed by the ghosts. Towards the end, you feel no attachments to them or whatsoever, and nothing feels resolved.
Juon: The Grudge (2002) is an iconic and memorable film. Its scare factor and ghosts definitely deserve to be among the classics. The overall creepy vibe will stick with you for quite some time—maybe even a few years down the line. This is the type of movie that has one aim and one aim alone. And that is to scare you. True to its words, it does exactly that.
With these reasons, Grave Reviews gives Juon: The Grudge (2002) four graves out of five graves.
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