#285 -- Ju-On (2002)

Director: Takashi Shimizu
Rating: 4 / 5

Usually, my stand on originals vs. remakes is pretty simple. Very rarely to I enjoy a remake better than the original, and I stand very firmly by those originals. But here, I'm really not sure where I stand  in the battle.

By now, I think it's safe to say that everyone's familiar with the story, but here's the quote from the beginning just in case you're not. "The curse of one who dies in the grip of a powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places that person was alive. Those who encounter it die, and a new curse is born." At the very core of it, that's what Ju-On is all about. It centers around a certain house in Tokyo where a family died, and now everyone who enters the house meet their ends as well. Here, the main character is a girl named Rika who works at the Social Welfare Center, and is sent to the house to look after the elderly woman living there. Her son and daughter in law are who-knows-where, and she seems to be gripped by a terrible fear of something that only she can see...for now. The "grudge" will kill anyone who enters that house, and if they happen to escape with their lives, it will follow them. So, really, there's no way to escape this curse.

I am a fan of Asian horror, everyone knows that. I love the atmosphere of them, and I think they're some of the scariest movies ever made. Even though most of them do share the same basic ideas, they always have something new to offer, and I almost always love them. The problem that I have, most of the time, with the remakes, is that they lack that atmosphere that I love. Asian horror movies have that way of making us feel suspense, building up to a certain moment, and then slapping us in the face with some long-haired woman that will surely fill our nightmares for days to come. There's definitely something unique and special about them; something that most remakes just don't have. Here, though, both original and remake were directed by the same man, and even starred the same actors as Kayako and Toshio, the two ghosts in the house. So, really, they're essentially the same, aside from the fact that the remake caters to Americans. I think this one might be confusing to some of us, simply due to the cultural differences. That, and if you look away from the subtitles for two seconds, you'll be completely lost. There were some parts here that I didn't understand, but I'm just going to go ahead and say that's only because I'm not Japanese.

Even though the two are pretty much the same, there are a few differences. In Ju-On, the story of Kayako and her husband wasn't explained quite as much as in the remake. It tells us that she apparently had been cheating, and that her husband, outraged, killed her, their son, and their cat, before killing himself. But we didn't get all that mumbo jumbo about Bill Pullman and how she was a stalker. It also didn't stop once the main character's story was finished; it continued on about some teenagers going into the house for some dangerous fun, and then an entirely new curse was born (with a new set of angry spirits). This is the part that really threw me off to begin with. But I figure that the curse (or the grudge) doesn't have to involve the same set of people all the time. It simply states that it involves people who die in the grip of a powerful rage. See, those teenagers were abandoned by one of their friends, and they were left in the house to get killed by Kayako. This made them very angry, so they followed their friend home and tormented her until her mind unraveled.

Again, the two movies are essentially the same, so I'm not sure how I feel about each of them in the original vs. remake battle. They're both very good movies and, no matter how you look at them, Kayako's death rattle is absolutely terrifying in any language. So I think I'm going to call it a draw.

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