Ju-Rei (2004)

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Ju-Rei (2004)
Cast: Eriko Kazuto, Mirai Ueno, Chinatsu Wakatsuki, Eriko Ichido
Director: Koji Shiraishi
Nutshell: Shameless Ju-On re-tread with same croaking sounds and shadowy figures

Ju-Rei starts promisingly enough with a wintry shot of a non-descript street with some very eerie background music. Some school girls are rehearsing a dance routine when they hear that familiar Ju-on croaking sound – usually not a good omen. Then they start nervously chatting about the latest urban legend to hit the city about a dark, shadowy figure that supposedly kills you if you happen to be unfortunate enough to lay your eyes on it – and one of the group of girls apparently has. On cue, terror strikes as the shadowy figure makes an appearance and carries away its horror-struck victim.

From then on, the film works backwards a la Memento starting at chapter 10 and follows the characters that have been struck by the misfortune of witnessing the dark shadow of doom. The film is basically another shameless Ju-on spin-off that takes an increasingly stale theme and attempts to milk it for all its worth. It’s a tatty, poor cousin of the Ju-On films with extremely cheap production values and a fuzzy look of badly lit DV (deliberately achieved) and fairly unmemorable performances. Like the Ju-on films it’s also very low on logic or cohesion and plays like a collection of not so ingeniously mounted collection of shock scenes.

The films eerie, chilling soundtrack is easily the most effective aspect of this fairly dull affair. Needless to say the audience is treated to countless scenes of pasty faced waifs and anaemic children wearing red eye eyeliner creeping out of the shadows to do what they do – which one assumes is to frighten their victims to death as nothing happens to them other than they appear to freeze up with ghastly expressions on their faces, so it must be death by fright just as in Hideo Nakata’s Ringu.

Anyway, all the weird events on screen are conveniently blamed on The Dark Shadowy Figure who it seems has been busy popping up all over the place when she or he is least wanted, making those all too familiar Ju-on croaking sounds along the way.

This whole sub-genre involving ghostly waifs suffering anaemia and a particularly bad hair day has worn a little thin lately and though the dark haired shadowy figure is an essential aspect of Japanese folklore akin to the Bogeyman in the West – one can accept that it may be a recurring theme, but recurring once in a while, not ceaselessly.

There is some interesting imagery – the fuzzy out of focus shadowy figure was an effective idea and the eerie soundtrack succeeds in providing some ghostly atmosphere but the bits just don’t add up to a satisfying whole and after the Ju-on‘s and the Rings one is basically just left with an overwhelming sense of Déjà vu. It’s not a particularly poor film but it’s one that is merely a rather uninteresting re-tread of the Ju-on thing and this kind of scenario is proving to be just a tad too familiar in the last two or three years.