After dedicating most of September to the J-hora films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa it seems fitting that I should now look at those of Takashi Shimizu.
Shimizu studied under Kurosawa at the Tokyo Film Seminar/Film School of Tokyo. This relationship proved crucial for Shimizu because Kurosawa got him his first professional directing job helming two segments for Kansai TV’s 1998 Haunted School G series. These would form the basis for the Ju-On films which Shimizu is most remembered for.
Ju-On – A curse born of a strong grudge held by someone who died. The place of his death gathers his grudge and works on anyone who comes into contact with those places. Those with this curse shall lose their life and a new curse is born.
The film is split into six vignettes. Each one follows a separate person and they are not in chronological order. The first follows a teacher named Shunsuke Kobayashi who is concerned about the absence of one of his pupils named Toshio Saeki. While paying a house-call Shunsuke notices Toshio is injured, Toshio’s mother Ayako is nowhere to be found and the household in disarray with objects strewn around and the environment suggesting abuse. After helping Toshio apply first aid Shunsuke makes the decision to wait little realising the house is haunted. Cut to a few years later and new occupants are in the house. The Murakami family consist of the mother Noriko, son Tsyuyoshi and daughter Kanna with a father off-screen. Each of these people and those they interact with become haunted over time as the curse spreads and it becomes clearer that the house is haunted and the curse is spreading.
Originally a direct-to-video (original video) release, Ju-On: The Curse is the start of Shimizu’s highly popular run of yurei in suburbia titles that culminated in his helming the American re-make and even two films celebrating the tenth anniversary of the series which were directed by two new directors. I wrote yurei but it might be more accurate to call them onryou because these spirits are intent on harm. They terrify their victims (and the audience) to death with Shimizu playing on every fear an urbanite might have about their surroundings. The film is low-budget but high on imagination.