Juon Retrospective by Deep Red
WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT
Juon – A curse born of a strong grudge held by someone who died.
The place of his death gathers his grudge.
Anyone who comes into contact with this curse shall lose his life and a new curse is born.
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
This is the first instalment in the Ju-on series. Both this and it’s sequel, Ju-on: The Curse 2 (also 2000) are V-Cinema films; in Japan what we in the U.K. or U.S. would call direct-to-video releases are called Original Video (オリジナルビデオ) or V-Cinema. I caught these on YouTube as I haven’t been able to find them on DVD.
The Ju-on Grudge films are sequels to the Ju-on Curse films not remakes therefore the U.S.A./Japanese film The Grudge (2004) starring Sarah Michelle Gellar is a remake of the third instalment in the Ju-on series. The Grudge (2004) was also directed by Takashi Shimizu.
While Ju-on: The Curse is the first film in the Ju-on series it does follow two shorts, Katasumi (In a Corner) and 4444444444 (Ten Fours), both 1998. I have included a concise description of each short. Again, you can catch these on YouTube:
Katasumi (In a corner) (1998)
Two Japanese schoolgirls, Hisayo (Ayako Omura) and Kanna (Kanna Kashima), are in charge of looking after the school rabbits. Kanna cuts her hand so Hisayo goes to get a bandage. Something attacks Kanna. When Hisayo returns she can’t find Kanna just blood and fur everywhere and one of Kanna’s shoes, all bloody. Hisayo then sees a ghostly, bloody woman, Kayako (Takako Fuji), crawling towards her. She turns to see Kanna, also deathly pale and bloody, Kanna hisses at her. We see Kayako again. Hisayo, holding a trowel, awaits her fate.
4444444444 (Ten Fours) (1998)
A man, Tsuyoshi (Kazushi Ando), cycling, hears a cell phone ringing so he stops to look for it behind some rubbish. When he looks at the display it shows a line of ten fours (4444444444), the number 4(四) is bad luck in some Asian cultures, it and the Japanese word for death (死) are homonyms, pronounced shi. He answers it but just hears cat noises so he hangs up. It rings again, he answers again, sitting down outside the building near to where he found the phone. Again he hears the cat noises. He asks if it’s a joke and if the caller is somewhere nearby. He asks if the caller is watching him. Someone answers, “I am.” The voice is coming from beside him. He turns and sees a young boy, deathly pale sitting beside him, Toshio (Daiki Sawada). Toshio makes a noise like a cat.
Fans will no doubt recognise the characters of Kayako and Toshio from both Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) and its remake The Grudge (2004).
OK, back to Ju-on: The Curse:
In Italy Ju-on: The Curse is known as Ju-on: Rancore (rancor in English meaning an angry feeling of hatred or dislike for someone who has treated you unfairly). In Finland it’s called Ju-on 1.
Ju-on: The Curse is divided into six segments:
Toshio (俊雄): A teacher, Shunsuke Kobayashi (Yûrei Yanagi), is concerned about one of his pupils, Toshio Saeki (Ryôta Koyama), not coming to school. He talks to his pregnant wife, Manami (Yue), about it. He remembers the boy’s mother, Kayako Saeki (Takako Fuji). He goes to their home and sees Toshio but the boys parents aren’t home. He goes in and talks to Toshio, the house is in a state. He looks out the window, behind him Toshio is making cat noises. Kayako appears on the upper floor balcony.
Yuki (由紀): The Murakami family are now living in the house, Kanna (Asumi Miwa) is studying with her tutor Yuki (Hitomi Miwa) who is afraid of cats. There are a few about. Kanna’s mother Noriko (Yumi Yoshiyuki) goes out. Kanna says she has to feed the rabbit (see Katasumi) and leaves, embarrassing her brother Tsuyoshi (Kazushi Andô) on the way out about his girlfriend, Mizuho. Yuki hears a strange noise, the death rattle, and makes to leave herself. She is forced to take refuge in a closet by a cat and investigates the attic above, only to meet Kayako.
Mizuho (瑞穂): Mizuho Tamura (Chiaki Kuriyama), Tsuyoshi’s girlfriend, is looking for him near her school, she finds a cell phone and his bike (see 4444444444) and asks a fellow pupil if he’s seen him, he hasn’t. A teacher comes out and helps her look in the school for him. While waiting Mizuho calls his home but he isn’t there. The lights star to flicker and Kayako appears, Mizuho sees her legs running past a desk. The phone rings, ten fours in a line on the display (see 4444444444), and Mizuho answers hearing a cat on the other end, Toshio appears.
Kanna (柑菜): At a coroner’s office, two detectives, Yoshikawa (Denden) and Kamio (Tarô Suwa), are investigating a dismembered body. The coroner tells them a human jaw was found in the body, it doesn’t belong to the body. A cadet comes in and tells them two schoolgirls were seen feeding the rabbits, Hisayo Yoshida and Kanna Murakami (see Katasumi).
At the house Noriko Murakami gets a phonecall from Mizuho asking for Tsuyoshi. Someone comes in, trailing blood, she follows and sees Kanna covered in blood, her lower jaw missing.
Kayako (伽椰子): The film now returns to teacher Shunsuke Kobayashi visiting Toshio at home, Toshio’s parents still haven’t returned. He hears Toshio talking to someone upstairs, when he finds the boy he is alone. He finds a journal revealing Kayako’s obsession with him. He investigates the attic and finds Kayako’s body. He then receives a phonecall from Takeo Saeki (Takashi Matsuyama), Toshio’s father, telling him his baby was born. Takeo has Shunsuke’s baby with him. Kayako crawls down the stairs while Toshio makes cat noises into the phone. Kayako then goes after Takeo. I would like to point out that this is a very disturbing segment of the film, some people will be upset.
Kyôko (響子): The final segment concerns a woman called Kyôko Suzuki (Yûko Daike) who is asked by her brother Tatsuya (Makoto Ashikawa) to see the house, Kyôko is a sensitive. She goes with Tatsuya to the house. She sees Kayako. She asks for some Japanese sake, a drink sensitive to spirits, she tells Tatsuya to make any potential buyers of the house drink the sake and never sell the house to anyone who spits it out, if the sake tastes strange to someone then the house is dangerous for them.
On the phone Tatsuya tells Kyôko that something is wrong with his son. Kyôko goes to the house once more, now owned by the Kitada couple, a man Hiroshi Kitada (Hua Rong Weng) and his wife Yoshimi (Kaori Fujii). Kyoko sees Yoshimi and realises Kayako has possessed her….
This film play excerpts from the segment Toshio (俊雄) from Ju-on: The Curse (2000) in the opening credits. The last two segments of Ju-on: The Curse, Kayako (伽椰子) and Kyôko (響子) are the first two segments of Ju-on: The Curse 2 with additional footage following Kyôko (響子). I have not been able to find the titles of the remaining 4 segments in Japanese writing.
Kayako (伽椰子): Same as Ju-on: The Curse.
Kyôko (響子): Same as Ju-on: The Curse. Additionally we see Kyôko investigating the deaths at the house and visiting her nephew Nobuyuki (Tomohiro Kaku), Tatsuya’s son, who is barely conscious. A neighbour, Hashimoto (Ganko Fuyu) knocks and says she heard a woman’s cry and a baby’s scream. Kyôko sends her away. Elsewhere Tatsuya reads that two people were murdered in the apartment. Nobuyuki seems to be staring terrified at something and Kyôko pulls back the doors and sees Takeo and the whole murder scene in front of her.
Tatsuya: Hiroshi Kitada (Hua Rong Weng) and his wife Yoshimi (Kaori Fujii) have only lived in the house a week. Yoshimi receives a letter containing a drawing by Toshio of his mother and father and Kayako’s journal from an unknown sender. She walks straight back in the house and viciously hits Hiroshi round the head with a frying pan then sits calmly at the table. Tatsuya brings his son Nobuyuki and Kyôko to his parent’s house. His father believes Kyôko has been possessed in the apartment. Tatsuya gets a phonecall telling him Kyôko is at his office when she is at his parents, he hangs up. Kyôko then disappears into thin air from the office. Tatsuya visits the house and is invited in by Yoshimi. He finds Toshio’s drawing and Yoshimi tells him that her son drew it. Meanwhile Tatsuya’s father sees Toshio at their house and Kyôko has turned into Kayako and her baby. At the Kitada’s, Yoshimi turns into Kayako and Toshio appears attacking Tatsuya. We then see Tatsuya’s parents are dead, Kyôko has become Kayako and her baby and Nobuyuki has become Toshio.
Kamio: Two detectives, Kamio (Tarô Suwa) and Iizuka (Reita Serizawa), visit Yoshikawa (Denden); Kamio and Yoshikawa appear in the segment Kanna (柑菜) in Ju-on: The Curse. Yoshikawa has suddenly quit his job. They see Yoshikawa who begins screaming hysterically at nothing. We then find out from the two detectives who are watching Nobuyuki, now living with a distant relative, that Nobuyuki lived in the same apartment where Manami Kobayashi was murdered and that Kanna and her mother Noriko died in the house where Shunsuke Kobayashi died, then the Kitada’s moved in. The detectives look at a picture of Yoshimi and see she is beginning to look like Kayako. Kamio burns the photograph. We then return to Yoshikawa and his wife, Yoshikawa’s wife sees Kayako’s face on the ceiling. At the station Kamio runs screaming hysterically from a room then Kayako appears.
Nobuyuki: Nobuyuki is at school when he sees Kayako through the window. She gets in and chases him but he can’t escape, suddenly there are many Kayakos. A short segment but very cool.
Saori: Saori and Kazumi are in the house where Shunsuke Kobayashi visited Toshio and Kyôko and Tatsuya left the sake, we hear the girls talking but we only have a view of the house from outside where there is a ‘For Sale’ sign. They drink the sake. Kazumi says “It’s not Sake!” and we hear the death rattle followed by the noise of a cat. Another very short segment.
Continued in Ju-on: The Grudge (2004)
Author’s note: Two interesting shorts and two superb examples of Japanese V-Cinema. Anyone who thought this series began with Ju-on: The Grudge I hope I have enlightened you. While I love the Grudge films, the Curse films are often more interesting and at times more hard-hitting than their theatrical sequels. I can’t wait for Ju-on: Beginning of the End (呪怨: 終わりの始まり ) (2014).