“Ju-On” is a sheer test of terror, tension, and heightening suspense, and director Takashi Shimizu who also writes the script gives some inspiring direction that echoes Hitchcock’s directing style of silence and horror within everyday aspects. Though the haunted house movie has been done as far back as movies have been around, Shimizu does one hell of a job with the formula creating not a movie with ghosts, but demons. Starting off with a gritty and frightening sequence in which a man murders a woman, her cat, and proceeds to make his way up to a young boy, and we skip to present day where we watch victim after victim fall under the unrelenting spell of the demonic entities that live in the house.
The story is presented into many long and short segments of a large cast of different characters who, in some way are connected to the house and have at one time or another stepped into its abode. First we witness a social worker become sucked in by the spirits, and it continues from there. What Shimizu does is he has us follow each character, their horrifying confrontations with the spirits, and disappearance all in chronological order, and sometimes out of order, and hardly any make it out alive. Shimizu is a masterful director, and gives a shocking and frightening film that takes the old formula and factory devices of shocking the audience and drags it on.
He knows how to take a scene and compose the horror well with the skills of Hitchcock with great camera work that often shows the ghosts but in brief glimpses. His trick angles are amazing, and horrific scenes that are incredible including a lot of the ghost sequences, not to mention his above ground scenes which resemble “Psycho” and his grimy murky sequences that often keep the ghosts enshrouded in the darkness, and there’s of course Kayako. Kayako and Toshio are the two spirits of the house who walk around stalking their victims and haunting them, watching them, and often times we get to witness flashbacks of the victims as they’re taken prey by the demonic entities.
With an eerie crackle of her broken bones, Kayako is easily one of the most frightening horror figures in film with her reptilian crawl along the stairs. Kayako played by Takako Fuji, is a horrifying specter and presence in the film; I often found myself tense whenever they loomed around the house, her long black hair draped down around her face, her miserable expression and pale skin, not to mention her reptilian crawl which becomes the trademark of her character. “Ju-on” is a light in the yen, that’s for sure. Person goes into house, person experiences an attack and disappears, and that’s how is repeats for an hour and a half. Not to mention the ending is completely confusing. Shimizu manages to compose some truly frightening sequences including the security camera scene, and the climax which is truly frightening.
You’re never sure what the purpose of the entity’s appearances mean to the plot, but it’s something you get to understand in the last frightening and surprising moments of the movie. Shimizu manages to create tension and suspense here that is just suffocating. Japan which is usually very crowded is portrayed here as deserted, lonely, and grim as the small house plays a large presence to the town. A lot of the times the gripping score accents Tokusho Kikumura’s stunning cinematography and comes together in a great hybrid of storytelling, excellent acting, and Shimizu creates a world that seems irrelevant outside of the house keeping the demonic entities, and the final minutes of the movie where we look onto an eerie sight complete a contemporary horror masterpiece.