It’s hard to intellectualize a film so dependent on an emotional response. If you just look at the technical end, the film has several flaws. It’s disjointed and dense. The story is non-existent. Also, anything that doesn’t directly involve ghosts, people reacting to ghosts or people investigating deaths caused by ghosts is tossed aside. For example, I can’t be 100% sure, but I don’t think that there’s a single non-ghost conversation between two people in the entire film. Characters come and go and remain ciphers throughout.
Not to mention that there’s a tendency to linger too long on the shock scenes. They still work well, but one can’t help thinking that a little bit of trimming here and there might have helped.
The story? It’s simple beyond belief. The ghosts of a murdered mother and son haunt anyone who crosses their paths. Even those who haven’t met them yet. The film is told in segments that jump around in time, a little like “Pulp Fiction”. I’d elaborate more, but there isn’t much more to tell. This is a no-frills script.
Ultimately this makes “Ju-On” less enjoyable to someone who might have wanted something other than a compilation of scary scenes woven together into the most economical cinematic style possible.
Only this film isn’t about that.
Judged merely on its effectiveness at eliciting an emotional response, the film works perfectly. Simply put, it’s a nightmare come to life and as such functions with the rules of a nightmare. Which is why it’s so ill at ease in a theatrical setting. It’s too bright, too noisy and too easy to remember that it’s just a movie. Ju-On isn’t meant to be seen this way.
It’s all about context you see.
The only way to watch this film is alone in a dark room late at night with all the lights out. All that exists in the world at that moment is you and the movie and there is nowhere to run, just like a nightmare. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and try.
Director Takashi Shimizu has made a subtle and claustophobic film that’s not for all tastes. After seeing it I went from being disappointed, to liking it, to not being sure what I thought.
After an hour’s worth of contemplation I can say that I understand the film and I understand the director’s intent. You’re not supposed to walk out of the theatre liking it or not. That’s not the point. You’re supposed to go home after the show and lay in bed all alone, thinking. Then, just as you’re about to fall asleep there’s a creak; and you’re supposed to pray very hard that when you open your eyes and look there won’t be a little boy there looking at you.
That’s what this film is about.