Ju-on: The Curse cover
|Films and television|
Ju-on (呪怨 Juon?, lit. Curse Grudge) is the title of a series of Japanese horror films, created by Takashi Shimizu. Shimizu attended the Film School of Tokyo, where he studied under Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Kurosawa helped Shimizu shepherd the Ju-on projects to fruition.
The Ju-on movies revolve around a curse created in a house in Nerima, Tokyo when Takeo Saeki, convinced that his wife Kayako was having an affair with another man, murdered her, their son Toshio and Toshio's pet cat in a jealous fit. According to Ju-on, when a person dies with a deep and powerful rage, a curse is born. The curse gathers in the place where that person has died or where they were frequent at (in the series' case, the house in Nerima) and repeats itself there. The spirits of the Saeki family now haunt the house, killing anyone who encounters the curse by any means, such as entering the house or being in contact with somebody who was already cursed. The curse's manifestation is mainly death, where the victims' bodies may or may not disappear. The following deaths may create more curses and spread them to other locations.
The franchise consists, to date, of six films alongside several tie-in and merchandise products. Related to the series is the American The Grudge franchise, of which the first installment is a remake of the third Ju-on film.
Shimizu stated in an interview that the inspiration for Ju-on came from his own personal fears as a child and a Japanese dance group that would paint their nude bodies and perform. Shimizu found the performance frightening and decided to "paint my ghosts white".
The title of the films translates roughly to "Curse Grudge". The first two films in the series were so-called V-Cinema, or direct-to-video releases, but became surprise hits as the result of favorable word of mouth. Both films were shot in nine days and the story is a variation on the classic haunted house theme, as well as a popular Japanese horror trope, the "vengeful ghost" (onryō). The titular curse, ju-on, is one which takes on a life of its own and seeks new victims. Anyone who encounters a ghost killed by the curse is killed themselves and the curse is able to be spread to other areas.
Under very tight budgetary constraints, Shimizu's films garnered much acclaim from both critics and genre fans for their effective use of limited locations and eerie atmosphere to generate chills. Shimizu was at the same time perfectly willing to show his ghosts onscreen, in contrast to some directors who might choose only to hint at their appearance. But critics noted that Shimizu's minimalist approach to directing and storytelling — a necessary by-product of the production's limited overall resources — allows the films to retain their ability to unnerve viewers. Very few scenes in the movies are graphically bloody, making such scenes more disturbing when they occur. 
Following the success of the two direct-to-video films, and the international success of Hideo Nakata's Ring (1998), Kurosawa and Ring screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi helped Shimizu develop Ju-on as a theatrical feature starring Megumi Okina and Takako Fuji. The first theatrical film, Ju-on: The Grudge, was released in 2003 to critical acclaim and the US remake rights were purchased, with Shimizu himself attached to direct and Sarah Michelle Gellar starring. This sparked the creation of the American franchise, The Grudge. Later that year, another theatrical installment, Ju-on: The Grudge 2 was released.
Ju-on originally started off with two low-budget, V-Cinema, Japanese television movies in 2000, both shot in the course of nine days. Three years later, due to the success of the videos, director Takashi Shimizu made a theatrical sequel to the V-Cinema videos, titled Ju-on: The Grudge. The highly acclaimed third installment is widely available worldwide. Another sequel was released in 2003, titled Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (or simply Ju-on 2). In 2009, two films titled Ju-on: White Ghost and Black Ghost were released in honour of the series' tenth anniversary.
- Katasumi follows the demise of Kanna and her classmate, Hisayo. They are feeding rabbits at school when Kayako, the ghost in the series and the curse's fulfiller, attacks them both.
- 4444444444 follows the death of Tsuyoshi, Kanna's older brother. Tsuyoshi comes to school to meet his girlfriend, Mizuho, and finds a mysterious ringing cell phone whose caller ID shows a strange number, 4444444444 (The number 4 in Japanese is a homophone of the Japanese character for "death"). The ghost of Toshio, Kayako's son and also one of the curse's fulfillers, appears and takes Tsuyoshi; his body is never found.
The stories of Kanna and Tsuyoshi are further extended in Ju-on: The Curse.
- Ju-on: The Curse (V-Cinema); (Available only in Japan, Germany, and Scandinavia)
- The first Ju-on follows the lives of the people connected to a house in Nerima, Tokyo where a gruesome murder of a housewife occurred. School teacher Shunsuke Kobayashi visits the home of his absent student, Toshio, where he discovers the boy beaten and bruised. He waits for Toshio's parents to come but soon realizes what the Saeki family has become and is killed, his wife and unborn child being murdered as well by Kayako's crazed husband Takeo after he learned Kayako had a stalker-like crush on Kobayashi. He is in turn killed by Kayako's ghost. The movie also explores the fates of the next family to live in the house, the Murakami family, as well as two people who come in contact with them. The film extends the stories of Tsuyoshi and Kanna from Katasumi and 4444444444. The last segment shows a snippet of Suzuki Kyoko's arrival, a psychic who was invited by her brother to explore the house that he was going to sell, which was the cursed Saeki house. This movie showed death or vanishing as the curse's result.
- Ju-on: The Curse 2 (V-Cinema); (Available only in Japan, Germany, and Scandinavia)
- Ju-on: The Curse 2 continues the story of Kyoko Suzuki and shows how the curse fatally affected her and everyone in her family. A large portion of this film is a recap of the previous installment. It also portrays the story of a couple, the Kitadas, living in the house as the wife becomes possessed by Kayako's spirit and murders her husband. The film features the extended storyline of Detective Kamio from Ju-on: The Curse. The Curse 2 also introduces a group of school girls who had sneaked into the house, one of them being Izumi Toyama, whose story would be continued in Ju-on: The Grudge.
- Ju-on: The Grudge; (released in Japan, UK and USA)
- Ju-on: The Grudge centers around the fate of social worker Rika Nishina. Rika comes to visit the house of Tokunagas (the old Saeki house) where she was summoned after the social worker assigned to the house has disappeared. Surviving a terrible experience in that house, she discovers the truth behind the deaths connected to the house. It was later revealed that Rika was the one destined to play out the curse: she was to die the same way Kayako did and become the next fulfiller of the Ju-on. In this movie, it was revealed that the curse has some time-traveling capabilities (or residual haunting) where a victim may see another victim from another time frame. An example is Det. Yuji Toyama seeing what will happen to his daughter, Izumi, years after his death when she enters the house. Izumi was only 12 years old when Yuji died and when she entered the house at 16, she sees her father just before he encounters Kayako. However, this is not just prior to his death, because he runs out of the house and it is later revealed by Izumi's mother that he went insane before he died.
It is worth noting that this film and its sequel are not remakes of the V-Cinema films, as is commonly believed but are, in fact, sequels.
- Ju-on: The Grudge 2; (released in Japan, the UK and USA)
- Ju-on: The Grudge 2 revolves around the actress Kyoko Harase and her pregnancy. After a car accident caused by Toshio's ghost, Kyoko apparently miscarries. When her doctor assures her of a healthy pregnancy, Kyoko becomes perplexed. It is revealed that Kyoko was involved with a horror television production filmed at a haunted house - the house of the Saekis in Nerima. Producer Keisuke finds Kyoko and informs her that most members of the film crew have either been killed or gone missing. The outcome of Kyoko's pregnancy is horrifyingly revealed as she gives birth to Kayako. Several years later, a child version of Kayako pushes her new mother, Kyoko, off an overpass and kills her. She is then seen walking away into the streets.
- In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Ju-on series, the fifth and sixth installments titled Ju-on: White Ghost and Ju-on: Black Ghost premiered in simultaneous screenings in theaters in Japan on June 27, 2009. Takashi Shimizu and Taka Ichise returned to supervise the films' production, each with a different director.
- White Ghost revolves around a son that brutally murdered all five of his family members and ultimately hanged herself. One of the victims was his niece Mirai, who he had sexually abused. Mirai's childhood friend Akane saw evidence that she was being sexually abused by her uncle, but was unable to help her. Several years later Mirai's spirit came to haunt her.
- Black Ghost revolves around a girl named Fukie who has been having bizarre attacks accompanied by a death rattle. Test results show a cyst inside Fukie’s body, but that cyst is actually the physical remnant of a twin that Fukie's body partially absorbed in the womb. The cyst holds a grudge for not being born and influences several characters to commit murder sprees via spiritual possession. Fukie's mother, Kiwako takes the spirit (inside Fukie's body) and jumps off the hospital rooftop with it, killing them both. However, this leads to the spirit being released from the body.
- The seventh installment of the franchise has been announced in early 2014, with Masayuki Ochiai set to direct.
- Beginning of the End focuses on an elementary school teacher named Yui who visits the home of Toshio Saeki, who's been absent from school for a long period of time. When she arrives, she re-lives the horrific tragedy which occurred in the Saeki household 10 years earlier.
In 2003, novelizations of stories from the series were written by Kei Ohishi. The first novel, Ju-on, elaborates on events and characters from Ju-on: The Curse, The Curse 2 and Ju-on: The Grudge. A novel titled Ju-on 2 was released the same year, which elaborates on the events from Ju-on: The Grudge 2. Novelizations of Ju-on: White Ghost and Black Ghost were published in 2009. Ju-on 2, White Ghost and Black Ghost did not receive English translations.
Two manga adaptations were released in 2003 in Japan and 2006 in the US, titled Ju-on: Video Side and Ju-on: Vol. 2. The manga follow other events from the series that were omitted in the novels.
In honor of the series' 10th anniversary, a game, titled Ju-on: The Grudge - Haunted House Simulator was developed for the Wii. The game was released in Japan in 2009 by AQ Interactive under the title Kyoufu Taikan: Ju-on (Fear Experience: Ju-on), and in Europe under the title Ju-on: A Fright Simulator.
The video game was confirmed on May 22, 2009. Shortly afterwards, a demo of the game was unveiled at E3 2009, where Xseed Games described it as a "haunted house simulator," rather than a traditional survival horror game. The game does not feature any combat, as its format relies on subtle exploration and scare tactics. Joystiq reviewers who were present for the demo's screening at the E3 justified this, observing that, "In most horror games, a skilled player can actually defeat the creatures (with notable exceptions like Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head ...), making the game more of a power fantasy than a true fright. In both of these games [Silent Hill 2 and Ju-on: The Grudge], you can escape the creatures at best."
- Gakkō no kaidan G at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on 2 at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on: The Grudge at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on: The Grudge 2 at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on: Shiroi rōjo at the Internet Movie Database
- Ju-on: Kuroi shōjo at the Internet Movie Database