Friday, 25 July 2014

Ju-on: The beginning of the end (呪怨: 終わりの始まり) (2014)

Despite its title, Ju-on 7 is the beginning of the remake of the franchise

By now, you’d be familiar with the premise of the Ju-on franchise. It’s a haunted house horror where the hapless visitors to the lair of evil are haunted back at their own homes. The twist is the feature films are told as a series of vignettes presented out of chronological order. And the punchline to every segment is: this little Japanese kid in white body paint crawls out from the most inconceivable places (out of a drawer, under a bed) to stare the poor victim into a fright.

Ju-on as a concept works, and is a showcase of what can be done on a low budget short film. The locations are ordinary, everyday homes (so it can happen anywhere to anyone who’s unsuspecting), while the brevity of each segment and the minimalist, almost repetitive and predictable storytelling establishes the franchise style and maximises the impact of the simplistic punchline, which requires zero CGI or special effects.

As a feature film franchise, though, the strength of the Ju-on premise become a millstone around its neck. The predictability of each segment mean that the punchline is expected, anticipated, and its shock and scare value negated. It doesn’t help that all the segments have the same punchline (except the final one, which always involves what looks like Sadako’s sister crawling on the floor). And it helps least that every Ju-on movie (aside from 2004’s White Ghost and Black Ghost) all tell the same story, all uncover the same backstory and mythos.

Sure, you can tell it all in slightly different chronological order and with a slightly different cast of victims but if it ends in the same way all the time without a sense of progression, I’d say the franchise is stuck in a rut. As it turns out, Ju-on 7 is a retread of various segments (and punchlines) from the first 3 features, but with a different cast of characters.

Best look to Hollywood’s “The Grudge” reboot later this year to show the way forward, though this entry is technically has the best execution and storytelling of the original Japanese franchise.

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