Megumi Okina as Rika Nishina
Misaki Ito as Hitomi Tokunaga
Misa Uehara as Izumi Toyama
If Ringu created an international following for J-Horror, Ju-On cemented it. More violent and creepier than its forerunner, Takashi Shimizu takes an old Japanese ghost story about a woman’s curse and turns it into the basis for one of the scariest movies of all time.
Harbingered by a creepy kid, the shadowy specter makes an eerie croaking sound, before sucking the life force from its victims. Like Ringu, it can manipulate phone and television signals to terrify its prey and warn them of the inevitable. Yet, a video tape doesn’t have to be watched to become a potential victim and anyone in contact with a previous victim becomes fair game. The ending is spellbinding, though maybe not as surprising as it would have been ten years ago, as it has been hackneyed by many screenwriters.
From start to finish, terror-laced tension grips you and keeps your eyes peeled. Although the audience is unsure of its importance, the opening scene is both gruesome and hateful. Action flips immediately to Rika, a social worker who finds an elderly woman living in a house of squalor without any sign of her caretakers. The elderly woman appears incapable of communication. Rika hears a noise upstairs and finds a kid who disappears and reappears several times. Upon returning downstairs, she finds the grandmother resting and notices a shadowy form hunched over her in the shape of a young woman. The specter sees her and action flips to the events that led to the current state of affairs.
Past and present, the specter appears to individuals, terrifies them and ultimately kills them. All the victims are connected to each other, though some rather loosely and the audience is unsure of the meaning behind their deaths until the end.
The creep factor in this film is high, not because either the kid, or the specter look particularly scary (though the latter may fit that description at points), but because Shimizu is a master of camera shots, timing and the unexpected. Your nerves are left perpetually unsteady, never knowing the reach of the specter’s killing power. Not even the best of the slasher movies can compete with the non-stop, pulse-racing tension found here.
If you believe in ghosts, or look twice when things go bump in the night – this film will terrify you.