Starring: Yuuko Daike Makoto Ashikawa Kahori Fujii Taro Suwa Denden
Running time: 76 min.
Reviewed by Bob Turnbull
Silly and bordering on nonsensical, Takashi Shimizu's fourth "Ju-On" film (not counting any of his American remakes) is still a brilliant study in tension and atmosphere. Even when that wig starts crawling...
The film is not so much a sequel as simply a reuse of the concept behind the previous films, but with different characters. The "grudge" that lives on in the house is still in place - it was born from the murders of a wife and her son at the hands of a raging husband. The two victims now exist as ghosts and seek vengeance on anyone who sets foot into the house. Without exception. Shimizu also stays with his use of fractured timelines and crossing story lines. Though needlessly confusing at times, it's wholly effective in setting up moments later in the film where you realize both what has already happened and what is about to happen. Combine this with the spooky sound elements used throughout (I can't emphasize how well thought out and subtle the sound field is used in all of the Ju-On films) and a good mix of both subtle and jump scares and you've got yourself a highly entertaining horror film.
The house itself plays a smaller role this time around. Most of the characters visit it during a single event - the filming of a pseudo-documentary about the house and its past - so it doesn't show up time and time again as much. This means the ghosts show up in further reaching environments and situations. The opening scene, for example, shows horror queen Kyoko driving with her boyfriend and discussing her pregnancy when little Toshio (the ghostly boy) greets them and causes an accident. This lands them both in the hospital - him in a coma and her having lost the child. Things get really strange for Kyoko when she discovers through her doctor some time later that she is 3 months pregnant...It becomes clear later in the film how this happens and it's actually a pretty clever device to bring Kayako (the ghostly Mom) and Toshio out from the confines of the house.
Your enjoyment of the film will depend somewhat on how much you want to simply roll with it though...Along with the chopped up stories, the ghosts are less and less consistent in not only how they finally attack their victims but also when. Some get it quite soon after being in the house while others manage to avoid their fates for days, weeks or even months. For me it's all forgivable because of the creativity brought to the haunting and death scenes. Whether it's Toshio popping up in the oddest of places, subtle movements in the background, huge faces appearing in windows or that black hair inching its way into the frame, it's different every time. Further, the film adds humour to the mix by bringing things like photocopiers, audio equipment and, yes, wigs into the arsenal of the ghosts. You may start out laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the situations, but just as you get comfortable with that break in the tension your laughter may quickly turn to "oh crap..."
And that makes for one highly entertaining horror film.