Ju-on - an appreciation.
Hollywood makes awful horror movies. That is assuming that the definition of a horror movie is a movie that genuinely scares you and makes you feel uneasy. If the definition of a horror movie is to crank up the CGI, overlay every scene with ill advised music and screaming, thereby negating all fear, then Hollywood makes great horror movies. The only time that Hollywood has made halfway decent ones is when they have remade those from Japan. In Japan, film makers seem to realise that it's silence and not screaming that is scary, that it is the unseen and the expectation of what is to come that creates fear, not a soundtrack and a computer graphic.
Ju-on is perhaps the best horror film I have ever seen, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's scary. Really, unsettlingly scary. This is caused by the sparse style of filming, the sense of expectation and the fact that everything is downplayed and underhyped. Take for example the scene pictured below.
A man returns home to find his wife lifeless on the bed. Looking in the cupboard, he senses movement behind him. Turning, he sees nothing, but when he goes over to investigate the bed, a little blue tinted boy springs up and stares at him. No special effects, no music, and it works superbly.
The character of the young boy, Toshio, is another reason that Ju-on is so good. In most of the other great Japanese horror films, there is always a Sadako character - the ghost of an abused girl, with long hair, wearing a white dress. Ju-on has this character in the form of Toshio's mother, but he himself adds so much more tension to the proceedings, and it's refreshing to see an original character causing the scares. The scene below is a good example.
As one of the curse's victims ascends in the elevator, Toshio appears on each floor, staring at her through the glass. Simple yet powerful. For Japanese and non-Japanese living in Japan, scenes like this are made all the more powerful due to the fact that most elevators in Japan look just like that. Most Japanese houses look similar, in part, to the cursed house. Most apartment hallways look similar to those in the movie.
My Japanese skills are pretty basic, and as I saw Ju-on on vhs without English subtitles, I don't know the subtleties of what is said. I understand the gist of what is happening however, and perhaps my lack of knowledge adds to the scariness of the story. There are many other scary scenes in this movie, but you'll have to watch it for yourself to see them...