by Brody Rossiter
The croaking of a voice box; the ceaseless meowing of a cat; the scraping of fingernails down a bedroom door; the humming static of a busted television screen – all sounds which resonate with unease and despair while also marking the arrival of a presence not of this world. 2002’s Ju-on: The Grudge is undoubtedly one of Japanese horror’s most infamous and relentlessly terrifying pictures, capable of transcending cultural barriers due to the sheer potency of its despairing atmosphere and ghastly scares.
When a concerned social worker investigates a Tokyo house after the sudden disappearance of one of her colleagues, she quickly discovers that all is not well. Finding the home in a sorry and distinctly strange state, she is soon exposed to a horrifying experience and left to wrestle with the harrowing after-effects that plague both her and the house’s many residents both past and present.
After discovering his wife’s obsession with another man, Takeo Saeki decides to brutally murder his better half, the family cat and possibly his young son. The tragic and violent event brings forth a curse that drags the murdered family back to the mortal plain as vengeful spirits who murder all who enter the house – in-turn spreading the contagious horrors to the place where they die.
Weaving its combination of startling jump scares and creeping terrors throughout the series of non-linear narratives, Ju-on is a disorienting and relentlessly creepy affair. The deathly, and often sudden appearance of the cursed family never grows tiresome, or less importantly, less fearful. Whether they appear inches away from a protagonist’s eyeballs or on the shuddering footage of a security camera, their jet black hair and abyssal pupils are capable of making audiences’ skin crawl time and time again.
Despite being repeatedly mimicked, never more so than with its American, Sarah Michelle Gellar fronted remake, Ju-on is J horror’s second most iconic picture after Ringu for good reason. Not bogged down by the typically sleepy and angst-ridden temperament that floods the majority of overly didactic Japanese cinema, the film simply relies on its supernatural ambiance and scares. This is one haunted house that will leave you desperately running for an exit, in this world or the next.