Thursday, 12 September 2013


Ju-on first crept under the covers in the year 2000 as a straight-to-video movie developed by Shimizu Takashi. Over the next ten years it spawned multiple movies in both Japan and Hollywood. The first two Japanese movies are well worth your time, with the second part improving on the original in every way. 

The first Hollywood version - once again directed by Shimizu Takashi and featuring some of the original cast - is one of the more successful American remakes, and not just because it starred everybody’s favourite vampire slayer. Parts two and three were rubbish, but then, Buffy did die in part two and the less said about part three the better. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the series, two new Japanese films were released in 2009; White Ghost and Black Ghost (also known as Old Lady in White and Girl in Black) offering fresh twists on the grudge curse. 

Directed by Miyake Ryuta, White Ghost stars model turned actress Minami Akina as Akane, a high school student that can see dead people. One of Akane's childhood friends died at the hands of her brother (he was a little crazy it has to be said), killing his entire family before ending his own life. That will certainly do it. He left behind a recording of a strange female voice saying "go now". Akane in the meantime, is experiencing visions of a white-clothed ghost (the clue is in the title), sporting a yellow hat and red bag combo, just like the ones they had when they were kids.

Make no mistake about it, White Ghost is a pointless continuation of the Ju-on series. Low production values give it a made for TV vibe, at best, which is rather fitting when you consider the origin of the series, but the original movie wasn’t expensive and still looked a whole lot classier than this. The make-up effects are laughable not scary, and the cheap jump cuts are as terrifying as a baby panda sneezing. Performances are weak but the lack of genuine thrills will make you question your senses. All five of them. The blame lies with writer/director Miyake Ryuta, so fans of the original films will do well to avoid this fright-mare and move on to the next.

Directed by Asato Mari, Black Ghost stars Kago Ai as nurse Yuko, taking care of a young girl (Matsumoto Hana) with a cyst growing inside her body. Turns out that the cyst is actually the grudge of the girl's unborn twin, and the curse soon spreads to everybody around her. Shimizu Takashi came up with the concept on this one, which probably explains why the hallmark death gurgle (you know what I mean) punctuates every scene. The effects are better in Black Ghost as well. Asato Mari makes good use of a limited budget and manages to bring some arresting imagery to the table. Black Ghost is less perplexing too, dispensing with the fragmented nature of the first film and getting straight down to business.

White Ghost, Black Ghost is yet another blot on the Ju-on franchise. We’ve seen this type of movie so many times now, and without a fresh angle the Ju-on series really doesn’t cut it anymore. Regurgitating the same themes might read like 'celebration' on paper, but I expected more from one of my favourite franchises. The Japanese series that is. And the one with Buffy. Obviously. Don’t waste your time on these latest additions to the series, and don't read too much into the fact that the curse can’t be stopped. It can. That’s why they invented the ‘off’ button... AW

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