What do you call something that is more than a rip-off? Something that steals anything and everything? Something with absolutely no identity of its own? Well, if you’re the American distributors of Ju-Rei: The Uncanny, you call it “The Most Horrifying Film From Japan” – cause that’s the only way to trick someone into sitting through this counterfeit ghost flick.
In a nutshell, Ju-Rei wants so desperately to be Ju-On that it goes out of its way to convince you that you’re watching another installment. Told in a series of segments (*sigh*), the film depicts a succession of characters that each fall victim to a deadly “grudge.” Sporting a shot-on-video look reminiscent of the early Ju-On installments and featuring sequences lifted directly from the entire series, this exercise in plagiarism is about as excruciating as it gets.
It’s no secret that Asian films have reoccurring themes, images, and stories. But this is neither homage nor tradition. This is theft, pure and simple. Let’s go down the list, shall we?
Non-linear story? Check.
Virus curse? Yup.
Blue-faced ghost kids? Righto.
Schoolgirls in peril? Uh-huh.
Spooky cell phone calls? Ding, ding.
And if all this wasn’t enough, the spooks even make deep-throated “clicking” noises that are identical to the sounds in Ju-On. With the sheer amount of Japanese ghost films out there, you’d think Ju-Rei would at least steal from more than one source, but that isn’t the case here.
Okay, I’ve made enough comparisons. Now let’s talk differences. Well, there’s really only one: talent.
Ju-On filmmaker Takashi Shimizu has always been a master at creating build-up, atmosphere, and unsettling imagery. Here, director Koji Shiraishi (a name we’ll probably never hear from again) tries to do the exact same thing but only succeeds in winding the tension down to a comatose state. Dull characters – played by equally dull actors – do nothing but mope around corridors and rooms for entire segments. In one sequence a girl runs and hides under her covers (again, like in Ju-On) and stays there for a total of THREE MINUTES before anything happens. All of this wouldn’t seem so bad if there were some sort of pay-off. Alas, each segment fizzles out with the appearance of an unscary ghost that lasts for, more or less, half a second.
In the end, the only “uncanny” thing is how this piece of amateurish V-cinema garbage found its way onto U.S. video shelves. At a mere 75 minutes, I had to stop it twice to keep myself from falling asleep. I’m all for more films like Ju-On, but I can’t help but feel that a monkey with a camera could’ve more skillfully duplicated this material.
All this being said, there is one plus side to Ju-Rei: The chapters count down from the top, so the viewers can gauge just how long their suffering lasts. Movies this bad don’t usually give you that kind of luxury.
Ju-Rei: The Uncanny (2004)
(Pathfinder Home Entertainment)
Directed by Koji Shiraishi
Starring Mirai Ueno, Eriko Kazuto, Chinatsu Wakatsuki
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