The Early Days of J-Horror – Ring Kanzenban and Ju-On: The Curse
Everyone has seen Ring and The Grudge, or at least the English remakes of them. Both are classics of what has been called the “J-Horror” movement, and both helped popularise Japanese horror movies with Western audiences, due to their mix of extremely creepy atmosphere, good jump scares, and unknowably mysterious antagonists. But Ring and The Grudge weren’t the first incarnations of their respective franchises. Both started as TV movies, which might sound strange to us native-English speakers, but it’s surprisingly common over in Japan. So, I thought I’d watch the first installments, and see if they were actually any good.
I’m a huge fan of all things Ring/u, read all the books, seen all the movies, even watched the TV show, but I’d never heard of this before yesterday. This came out on Japanese TV in 1995, three years before the original Ring film, and is 97 minutes long.
Ring Kanzenban is pretty much a straight adaptation of the book, which differs a fair amount from the first movie. Without wanting to reveal too much, firstly, Kanzenban is less of a horror movie, although there are still plenty of horror elements, and more of a thriller, with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. Secondly, the lead character is a man, which makes more sense in the context of the rest of the books (seriously, read them, the second one, Rasen, is still one of my favourite books ever). Thirdly, there are Sadoko sex scenes.
Yes, Sadoko spends at least half of her screen time topless (and without wanting to sound too sleazy, it’s easy to see why). Mind you, these aren’t exactly the types of sex scenes you want to see (in two different creepy ways as well! Yikes!) but it’s still a wild departure from the may-as-well-be-asexual movie Sadoko. The tape is suitably weird as well, if not as pant-wettingly scarring as the one in Ring.
The video quality on my copy was horrendous, but Kanzenban looks to be well shot, with good performances by the actors (except for the chick that died having sex, she stunk, and was probably only there for added nudity) and some really dated but cool sounding Tubular Bells-esque soundtrack. It’s a shame though, because as much as I liked the changes the first Ring movie made, it would have been nice to continue along with the book’s storylines, with more of a killer virus/dystopian future vibe. Kanzenban will be hard to track down, but is certainly worth it for RIng fans.
Ju-On: The Curse
Explaining the Ju-On series can be confusing, but Ju-On: The Curse was the 2000 V-Cinema (straight to video) original, followed by V-Cinema Ju-On: The Curse 2, before the two Ju-On: The Grudge theatrical releases, then the three The Grudge American movies,
Ju-On: The Curse as a standalone movie is extremely slow, with terrible special effects and an almost non-existent plot, but these are not inherent bad things. These are a good thing here, as I was quite taken by the extremely creepy atmosphere, which I believe was enhanced by the mysterious happenings, and the pacing, the lack of music, and documentary-like camera work and lighting all contributed to that feeling. The Curse is genuinely scary, and shockingly doesn’t rely on huge jump scares, unlike it’s successors. The one bit of CGI is pretty bad, but only if you pay close attention, and it’s a straight to video movie from 2000!.
The Curse had a few interesting features that I enjoyed as well. The jumping between various viewpoints, while not new in the slightest, was very effective here, and added to the sense of disorientation without making what little plot there was too confusing, and the fact that the curse wasn’t confined to people in the house, or even people who had ever been to the house made the curse virus-like and much scarier, much like the videotapes in Ring.
I couldn’t leave her out, could I?
I originally watched this years and years ago during my strictly horror-only phase, and it left me bored, but today, I was enthralled. But then again, I did watched the five and a half hour silent movie Napoleon recently, so I can watch anything now, I guess. Still, as long as you go into this with an open mind, and don’t expect anything too grand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.