The Grudge Ju-on Girl in Black and Old Lady in White 呪怨 黒い少女 呪怨 白い老女 (2009)

Ju-on The Girl Black  and The Old Lady in White were made in 2009 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on franchise which has resolutely stuck to the same idea: when a person is killed in an act of anger, the location where they died is cursed and anybody who goes into the area will be infected by the curse. These people will then go on to commit murders or are killed by malevolent spirits themselves.

Ju-on White Ghost Character

This has lead to a sequence of films where the only thing that needs to be changed is the cast of characters who venture into the haunted house and get cursed/killed. Indeed, some films lift sequences from each other, a case of “if it ain’t broke…”, I guess. As a result, each film in the franchise is standalone with very little continuity beyond the premise, the ghost of Toshio and the unnerving noise the ghosts make (SPOILER: a snapped neck is noisy).

This may sound like a stale franchise but I reckon Shimizu has honed the craft of urban spookiness and I can say this because these films chill me. I remember being in a cinema watching Takashi Shimizu’s American version, The Grudge (2004) – I sat there with my fists balled up being driven crazy by the ghosts. So what of Ju-on Girl in Black/Old Lady in White?

Here we find that Shimizu is no longer directing but is co-writing with new directors Ryuta Miyake and Mari Asato who handle White Ghost and Black Ghost respectively. The result is two films, 60 minutes each, which follow the formula by introducing a set of characters who soon find themselves cursed.

In White Ghost, the key character is Akane, a school student who’s being haunted by a friend who was murdered.

Ju-on White Ghost Akane

In Black Ghost, the key character Yuko, a nurse who gets involved with a girl named Yukie SPOILER who has the grudge inside her.

Ju-on Black Ghost Yukie

Both films have narratives that jump back and forth in time, revealing how the curse spreads amongst different characters and situations. There is a lot of inventiveness within the formula making the every-day take a turn for the haunted. Everywhere from urban homes, to schools and the back of a taxi become a site of haunting, all of which emanate from one shocking murder that ripples out amongst the characters.

Do the films work? Yes. The fundamental formula of the haunted house always works because it makes alien our urban environments and seeing them being undermined is genuinely creepy. It truly excels through the notion that out of the corner of your eye when we least expect it something will pop up and that our environment can be alien, setting up a series of encounters playing on isolation and the unknown.

Ju-on White Ghost Luggage

Both films feature grisly body-horror and strange events that are creepy but the acting and directing don’t go far enough beyond solid and into believably terrifyingly. I felt that the tone needed to be much more shrill. The writing in both suffers from the non-linear narrative structure which inhibits the build up of dread although White Ghost goes into tough social problems like senile dementia and child abuse showing how a toxic situation in the house can explode and create a haunting whilst Black Ghost has neat but familiar twists.

Worth watching? Sure, if only to see the last entries in the series for now. Competently made, they are great rental titles to get your friends to watch and talk about and laugh along to.

The Grudge: Girl in Black   Ju-On Girl in Black Film Poster

Japanese: 呪怨 黒い少女

Romaji: Ju-On: Kuroi Shoujo

Release Date: June 27th, 2009 (Japan)

Running Time: 60 mins.

Director: Mari Asato

Writer: Mari Asato (Screenplay), Kei Ooishi (Original Novel)

Starring: Ai Kago, Koji Seto, Maria Takagi, Hana Matsumoto, Yuri Nakamura, Michiko Iwahashi, Kana Tsugihara,

 

The Grudge: Old Lady in White   Ju-On Old Lady in White

Japanese: 呪怨 白い老女

Romaji: Ju-On: Shiroi Roujo

Release Date: June 27th, 2009 (Japan)

Running Time: 60 mins.

Director: Ryuta Miyake

Writer: Ryuta Miyake (Screenplay), Kei Ooishi (Original Novel)

Starring: Akina Minami, Aimi Nakamura, Takuji Suzuki, Marika Fukunaga, Hiroki Suzuki, Akiko Hoshino,

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