Japanese movie, directed by Takashi Shimizu. This is the film the American remake (also directed by Shimizu) draws the most from–there are two, and I’m not counting the Japanese sequel. A woman named Kayako (Takako Fuji) and her son Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) are killed by her husband Takeo (Takashi Matsuyama), and their angry, cursed ghosts kill anyone who comes in their house. Their victims’ stories are told in six segments.
I’ve seen this a couple of times, and the remake a bunch of times, but it still manages to retain its eerieness. There’s just something about Kayako’s moans and her wide-eyed shock that out-creeps a good many movie monsters. Not to mention how she crawls; there’s one scene when Kayako gets a prolonged close-up of her slithering down a flight of stairs, and it’s damned unnerving.
Then there’s her habit of dragging people away rather than straight-up killing people on-screen, making us use our imagination about what’s happening. The victims don’t always die right away—they’re tormented psychologically first. And of course there are little Toshio and the menacing Takeo. The performances are great overall. A couple of actors are meh, but Megumi Okina is always great.
There are a couple of less-than-scary moments, like when Rika (Okina) hears a cat yowling and sees her room is filled with cats, including a few clearly fake ones. Or the scene when a character runs from a trio of ghosts. She piles chairs in front of her door, apparently forgetting that she’s in Japan and has a sliding door. These don’t negate the scares, though. Going back to my raving about the creepiness factor, the scares are also wonderfully subtle, like the scene when an old man plays peek-a-boo with Toshio, and Toshio’s reflection seen fleetingly in a door. The ghosts pop up subtly, without calling attention to themselves—they sneak up on the audience too.
I can’t say the remake is a better film, as I like them both; I do like how Izumi’s (Misa Uehara) story was expanded in the American sequel. The segments and big cast of characters take some getting used to, particularly when Toyama (Yûji Tôyama), who is shown to have a young daughter, has a vision of her going in the house as a teenager. The scenes aren’t all in chronological order. But overall, I thoroughly enjoy it. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something creepy and well-made.