Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movie Review: JU-ON: WHITE GHOST / BLACK GHOST (2009)

In celebration of the ten year anniversary of his monster hit JU-ON, director Takashi Shimizu produced two “short” films called JU-ON: WHITE GHOST and JU-ON: BLACK GHOST (2009). I used quotation marks because they’re each an hour long and made up of tiny non-linear segments dealing with a ju-on which is described as the curse born of the death that happens when the perpetrator is in the grip of a powerful rage.

Here’s some background on this’s a little confusing, but it needs to be gone over. The first film is called Ju-on: The Curse which was followed by Ju-on: The Curse 2. These were released directly to video, but because they did so well, Shimizu-san was given more money and made Ju-on: The Grudge and Ju-on: The Grudge 2 for theatrical release.

He was then given a pile more money to make The Grudge and The Grudge 2 for American audiences (and to produce The Grudge 3 which went directly to video here.) All six films revolve around the vengeful spirits of Kayako and her son Toshio who were brutally murdered by her husband when he thought she was stepping out on him and that the boy wasn’t his son. Everyone who comes into contact with her house is touched by the curse and will die.

In both White Ghost and Black Ghost, the house plays a huge part. Toshio even makes an appearance for no reason. Kayako actress Takako Fuji declined to return; thankfully, they didn’t simply replace her. They took the Kayako character out completely which is kind of confusing in White Ghost, the first of the two films, especially when Toshio appears and Kayako’s trademark sound is heard.

White Ghost is about a family who is murdered in Kayako’s house and how the curse spreads out from there.

While technically accomplished, it’s quite obvious that Shimizu-san is not behind the camera on White Ghost; Ryuta Miyake wrote and directed this segment. It felt strangely...American and, a couple of good set ups aside, it wasn’t very frightening.

Black Ghost departs drastically from the formula Shimizu-san set up and used in six films (I haven’t seen Grudge 3, but I’m sure it’s exactly the same as the rest, but with 100% more American people) and it’s not a bad thing. In this story, a woman contacts her sister (a psychic Buddhist) to heal her daughter who, it is discovered, has a cytoma formed from the absorbed embryo of her twin sister who is now starting to assert her personality in the form of the grudge she’s held since birth at how she wasn’t born instead.

Black Ghost is also technically accomplished and far more interesting in its story, though if you’re not at least vaguely familiar with the anime version of Buddhist monks, the film can be unintentionally funny at times. Also, and I admit a great deal of surprise when I looked this up, but it was written and directed by a woman named Mari Asato! I don’t know what the percentages are for Japanese women as directors, but I have to think they’re pretty low. Now I know of one! Yay!

Overall, they’re okay entries to the series, but I think it’s time to just let the curse die out.

The trailer:

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