Play It Ghoul

Haunted house shocker from Japan

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DIRECTED BY Takashi Shimizu

STARRING Megumi Okina, Takako Fuji, Yuya Ozeki

Opens July 2, Cert 15, 92 mins

Prepare yourself for a fresh batch of Japanese psychological horror movies being remade in Hollywood. This creepy Japanese film?the culmination of two earlier video releases in Japan?is from the same production stable as The Ring, and will soon receive a similar US makeover. In Japan, the sequel is already in the can.

Rika (Okina), a young social worker, is called out to the home of Sachie, an elderly woman who lives alone in a suburban home in Tokyo. While Sachie cowers in her bed, Rika breaks the cardinal rule?don’t explore a haunted house alone. Gradually, the ghostly presence lurking in the property reveals itself to be an oversized black cat and a mute young boy, Toshio?as potent an icon of the new wave of Japanese horror as The Ring’s Sadako?before a thick, black vapour swallows up Sachie altogether.

These mysterious, unexplained forces proceed to terrorise, possess and destroy a whole series of characters. The subsequent deaths of Sachie’s son and daughter-in-law spark off a police investigation that gradually reveals the grim legacy of the old woman’s home.

The vengeful ghost is a familiar figure in Japanese horror. Tracing the story backwards, through the numerous victims of the house, we discover the origin of the curse, tied to the brutal massage of an entire family who lived there. The grudge of the title is the curse now unleashed on those who come into direct contact with the house and its purposeful but angry spirit. The film’s confusing plot, swinging between past and present, detracts from the claustrophobia and mystery of the story, and the characters are muddled. Still, Ju-On: The Grudge hits all the right horror buttons?grim music, sinister child, mysterious house?to be determinedly creepy, even if its mechanisms of fear are repetitive. The image of the possessed, taciturn child is a powerful one, while the palette of cold blues and white is particularly effective. The Hollywood remake, though, will surely be less stark and more straightforward.


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