Wednesday 30 June 2010

Ju-on: White Ghost / Ju-on: Black Ghost

The two latest instalments in the Grudge saga, which already includes a dizzying array of films, TV movies and remakes, arrive now on a single DVD. White Ghost gets off to a cracking start with a pizza delivery guy getting the fright of his life (as did we – the children wondered what we had been shouting about!), but falls off quite sharply. Black Ghost is made up of longer segments, and has a more coherent narrative, but isn't quite up to the same standard. The ghosts of the first film are exceedingly creepy, though dulled a bit by repetition, while the apparently latex-clad black ghost is much less effective.

In both, the jumps back and forth in time usual to a Grudge film mean the mystery is not always whodunnit, but what's the connection, where did it all begin? The only rule is that the victim must have had contact with another person affected by the curse. As a result the films can be rather disjointed and distractingly baffling, but it frees them from the need for a semi-indestructible protagonist – anyone can die, at any time, and that's key to the popularity of the series.

These films don't have to play fair. In a new Halloween, you know roughly what kind of scare is coming, and from where on the screen it's likely to come. Here anything can happen anywhere, with sudden, shocking unfairness. If the scares sometimes feel cheap, the terror they inspire is often priceless. That said, the scares are not the only thing here that's cheap: the effects and acting are not always at the level you'd expect from a film. They seem to be shot on video, and I'd guess that these hour-long films were made for TV or released direct to DVD. But if you liked the previous Grudge films, there's much to enjoy here too.

Ju-on: White Ghost / Ju-on: Black Ghost, Ryƻta Miyake, Mari Asato (dirs), Japan, DVD, 2x1hr

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