I Love The Grudge
Simon Paul Wilson
Welcome back, dear friends!
This month, I’m going to be singing the praises of the Japanese supernatural horror movie, Ju-On: The Grudge, and its American remake.
Yes. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, for once, The Grudge is a remake that actually works. Far too often, they just don’t.
I can’t begin to tell you how furious I get when Hollywood butchers masterpieces of Asian cinema. For example, if you were to mention the absolutely dire reimagining of Oldboy, it may cause me to vomit blood. Ooh, it makes me mad.
Anyway, enough of that, let’s get back to The Grudge.
Before I explain why I feel this is the best vengeful ghost movie, I’d like to teach you a Japanese word. Are you ready? OK, here goes…
An Onryo is a vengeful spirit that is capable of causing harm in the world of the living.
Basically, a ghost that kills.
I still remember the day I saw my first Onryo. Her name was Sadako Yamamura, and it was love at first sight. When The Ring came out on DVD in the early 2000s, it certainly made waves. The now-iconic scene where she climbs out of the television is utterly terrifying. I, for one, had never seen anything like it, and while it scared the life out of me, I knew I wanted more.
One day, back in 2004, I was sitting in a popular fast food restaurant, ‘enjoying’ a cup of coffee. It was a wet and dreary midweek morning, and I had ventured inside to take shelter from the persistent drizzle. As I waited for my drink to cool a little, I decided to glance at one of the newspapers the restaurant provided. Inside, I came across a double-page spread about a new horror movie called The Grudge, which was an American version of a Japanese movie called Ju-On. Apparently, the original director, Takashi Shimizu, was on board for this remake and was being helped by, no other than, Sam Raimi. If that wasn’t enough to pique my interest, the feature showed a few stills from the film, one of them being a grisly shot of a woman missing her lower jaw. Needless to say, this movie was now on my radar.
A few days later, I was in a supermarket and spotted the DVD of the original Ju-On on sale for £5. I snapped it up, obviously.
I watched it later that day.
Just in case you have never seen either of these films, here’s the basic plot:
Takeo Saeki finds out his wife, Kayako, is in love with another man. In a fit of jealous rage, he murders her. This is after he has snapped her neck and crushed her throat. Not content with this, he then murders their son, Toshio, and their pet cat.
What a bastard.
Not to worry, he is soon killed by the ghost of his recently deceased wife. The curse of The Grudge has begun.
This rage-born curse touches anyone who steps foot into the house where these brutal murders took place. You don’t get seven days to pass the virus on to some other unfortunate soul. No, Sir. You enter that house, you are doomed.
Whereas The Ring is a creepy film that slowly builds up to that legendary television moment, Ju-On moves at a much faster pace and is full of jump scares. To this day, there are some scenes that still get me. The bed scene, for example. Holy heck, did that scare the bejesus out of me the first time!
After watching Ju-On, I was eager to see The Grudge. It wasn’t long before I got the chance to head to my local cinema and do just that.
As I said earlier, I think The Grudge is a remake that works. The reasons why are very simple. For a start, the film is more of an English language version than a Hollywood rehash. The story follows a very similar plotline, it’s based in Tokyo, Japan, and the whole mythos and folklore of the tale remain very much Japanese.
The second reason, and perhaps the most important, is the actress Takako Fuji.
Her portrayal of Kayako, in both films, is utterly terrifying.
Yes, Sadako is very creepy indeed, but Kayako is far more so.
Whenever I see an image of her, with those insanely wide eyes and that blank expression, I get spooked.
The twisted, twitching way in which she moves is truly unnerving to see. The scene where she crawls down the stairs is now one of horror’s most frightening moments, and deservedly so.
But there’s one more thing that needs to be mentioned, and that’s the croaking death rattle she makes from her crushed throat.
That noise gives me cold shivers, each and every single time.
Yep, Kayako is the Onryo for me. No other vengeful ghost comes close.
If you haven’t seen either of these movies, I thoroughly recommend you do so. As for sequels, I will just say I enjoyed Ju-On 2, and thought The Grudge 2 was OK. Both of them featured Takako Fuji as Kayako, so are worth watching for that alone.
After that, I’d say check out the Netflix series, Ju-On: Origins.
Talking about these films has really made me want to check them out again. I think I will do so this weekend. It may have been a while, but I’m sure Kayako will still freak me out. If you are also scared to death by her, do get in touch. Perhaps we can set up a fan club or support group together.
Please join me next month, when I’ll be taking you to Hong Kong for Dumplings.
Bye for now!
Simon Paul Wilson
Simon Paul Wilson is a U.K. based writer of horror and science fiction.
He is currently writing a cyberpunk horror trilogy, the first of which is GhostCityGirl and was published by Not A Pipe publishing in 2020.
Click this link for more info: Ghost City Girl
There now follows a list of writers who have influenced his reading tastes and writing style:
James Herbert. Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, China Mieville, Haruki Murakami, Carlton Mellick III, Brian Keene, and Adam Nevill.
Simon lives somewhere in the middle of England with his wonderful family. He likes to listen to post-rock and progressive rock at loud volumes. He also plays a mean air bass.
Follow him on Twitter: @spwzen