Ju-On: The Grudge is apparently the scariest Japanese horror film ever, and it’s certainly filled with memorably creepy images: children’s hands running through someone’s hair in the shower or ghostly figures emerging from beneath the bedsheets to drag people away to oblivion. The film has a scrappy, low budget feeling which is actually an asset – restricted by cramped sets, the camerawork mostly consists of high, unnerving angles or static horizontal scenes. The camera moves sluggishly, like it’s fighting its way through treacle, and it contributes to a thick, forbidding atmosphere.
Problem is, the film isn’t actually that scary. The storyline is a thin excuse to provide a conga-line of characters who meet their end at the hands of grudge-bearing ghosts; if you’ve visited the haunted house in which the ghosts were killed or know someone who visited, you’re fucked. The film never has enough time to establish any real characterisation before its victims meet their grisly ends. The film’s episodic nature is interesting, but it sabotages its ability to succeed in its primary goal to scare the audience. Without characterisation, there’s no audience identification with the characters, so you’re merely watching unfortunate folks get tossed into the metaphorical meat grinder.