Ju-On: The Curse (2000)
As I said in my review of Retribution, I think the best horror movies are actually the ones made on more modest budgets. My friends and I wanted to see Ju-On: The Grudge. Little did we know that was actually the third of four movies in the Ju-On series, and wound up on the first movie instead, the direct-to-video Ju-On: The Curse.
A theme of Japanese mythology is the haunting of a place the deceased may have had a strong connection to, which is why it is prevalent in Japanese horror cinema in movies like The Ring or Dark Water.
Ju-On is actually several shorter stories connected into one hour-long film about strange things happening in what would seem to be an ordinary Tokyo home.
Shimizu Takashi was clearly very conscious of his budgetary limitations, and thus opted to not explicitly show things onscreen, instead leaving a lot up to the imagination. Except for two notable scenes, there was hardly a drop of blood to be found in the movie. Every scene, such as when Mizuho (fans of Kill Bill may recognize her as Kuriyama Chiaki) was alone in a schoolteacher’s office, dragged on for just long enough to make it feel very uncomfortable before showing the big shocker.
That said, the biggest problem I had with the movie was its non-ending, which clearly hinted toward a sequel (and there were three of them made). While I had some legitimate scares, I wasn’t happy with the fact that the plot simply wasn’t resolved. Normally in stories, the rising action reaches a climax, after which the action falls. Ju-On just kept building, and it seemed the writers thought, “Ah, we ran out of money. Oh well, let’s save the whole middle and end of this movie for the sequel!”
While Ju-On was by no means a cinematic classic, it was very good considering it was a direct-to-video movie; it was better than many horror movies I have seen that were released in theaters (I’m looking at you, Alpha Girls and Saw 3D). It was the first movie I have seen in a long time that was legitimately scary; I just wish it actually had a complete story.