Ju-On: A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.
Ringu: Ruthlessly murdered by her father, the ghost of a seer’s daughter kills all those who watch a weird video unless the viewer finds the escape clause.
Amelia: I am absolutely mad for a good ghost story, and Ju-On is one of my favourites. The Japanese know how to do a great horror movie better than anyone else on Earth. No, the Japanese know how to do a great horror movie better than anyone else in the galaxy! Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling it. Until I see a great horror movie from the Alpha Centauri system, I’m giving this to the Japanese.
What I love so much about Ju-On is how contained it is. Within this single house is an angry spirit out for revenge. Just step over the threshold of this house and you’re marked. There’s no escaping Kayako’s wrath. The time it takes her to do it in is chilling too. Will she stalk you for a single night before you die or will she let you be until you’re festering in anxiety and paranoia? It’s always a surprise in Kayako’s fun-time-happy-fucked-up-haunted house, where she’ll crawl out of the attic and scuttle after you like a possessed crab of doom!
Billy: It’s nice to get out of US cinema from time to time. We took a look at Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from Germany in this series, but Japan has a wholly different flavour once again. These movies feel like they belong together. Both became huge hits in the US around the same time and kind of actually made mainstream viewers realize other countries were actually making movies. That’s a rarity and something to be celebrated. At the same time, you have to question why these two movies? Well, I mean, you don’t have to question that. They deserve it. Both are pretty stellar examples of horror, and both do things US horror either never did, or hadn’t done in a very long time.
Amelia: Ringu is kind of dull. I mean, I like it, but if you’re not in the mood for it, you’ll find your mind wandering. I feel like I think this way because I saw the American version first and it definitely took the subtlety out of it. If you’re like me and saw the American one first, or have only seen the American one, you’ll be surprised by what a quiet, slow movie Ringu is. And you’ll be really surprised by how bland Sadako looks. In The Ring, Samara is waterlogged and freaky, right? In Ringu, she’s a girl with black hair in a white dress. She’s not wet or weird looking and I can’t be the only one that feels that was a missed opportunity, right?
Billy: Ju-On is a big ol’ web of horror. I love its anti-linearity, how the curse of the house seems to affect those inside the house, those who have been inside the house, and those who know someone who has been inside the house at some point,all at the same time. You see events spanning decades in this film, though not necessarily in the right order, and it all ultimately snaps back around to Rika’s story in the end. This is a movie that requires some unravelling through multiple viewings to really appreciate. When you get it, you see it’s pretty great storytelling, with scenes like Toyama and Izumi seeing each other in the house (although their physical visits are years apart) standing out in terrifically surreal comprehension. The actual ghosts of this story vary, but of course I like Kayoko the best. She can get you absolutely anywhere, with a look on her face that has no malice whatsoever, but rather a pained expression of fearful curiosity. You can be away from the house for years and still not be free. That’s very scary, and very effective in a film that makes time feel so fluid.
Amelia: I love Ju-On. I’m not even sure you could classify my feelings for Ringu as liking it. And, without a doubt, Kayako is scarier than Sadako! The curse of Sadako travels via a VHS tape. Don’t want to be cursed? Don’t watch that VHS! If you do watch it, copy the video and show it to someone else. Problem solved. Kayako though? You’re royally fucked. Just step into her house once and there’s no way to break that curse. She’ll find you no matter where you go. And between their visual designs there’s a clear winner and it’s Kayako! The way she lurks in the attic, crawling out through closets, and then dragging herself headfirst down the stairs without breaking eye contact is some of the scariest shit you’ll ever see. The movie made stairs frightening! Points for Sadako for being original in the way she transmits her curse, but Kayako’s better.
Billy: Every time I re-watch Ringu, I’m reminded just how much of this film is focused on terrific imagery. Seriously, the images on that VHS tape are some chilling shit. If you were to come across something like that, watching it alone at night, I can see it keeping you awake. There’s a much more straightforward narrative in Ringu, and I think that’s what made it so easily adaptable to American audiences. You get a lot more of a feel for remote, rural areas of Japan in this film, and that landscape contrasts so well with the cold technological connection with VHS and TV static. I feel like if I did more research I might really appreciate the meaning of that contrast, but for now I just know it produces a film with beautifully conflicting images. And what a villain Sadako is in this film. She’s just a killer, pure evil and born of malice. Again, she’s a demonstration of conflict, as we spend much of the film understanding her backstory and why she kills, only to reveal… no. She’s always been this way. That’s pretty terrifying in and of itself.
Amelia: Nine sets of stairs out of ten for Ju-On
Five wells out of ten for Ringu
Japanese horror is always going to have a special place in my heart because they’re just so good at taking normal and small circumstances and turning them into a frighteningly good time. Ju-On will always freak me out. Stairs shouldn’t be something that’s scary, but they are now! Ringu has dated itself a little now with its VHS based cursed, but it’s a movie I can still appreciate. As long as I’m not in need of a nap.
Billy: Eight sets of stairs out of ten for Ju-On
Six wells out of ten for Ringu
It came as a bit of a shock to me how much I’ve truly come to adore Ju-On while Ringu is just sort of okay. Ju-On is the better of the two films here, yet it’s the one that gets the lacklustre remake. The grand, decades-spanning story of Ju-On, the aspect that makes it really great in my mind, is so unique in horror. This is a genre usually concerned with setting things in tight, controlled spaces. Ringu does a lot of good things in making Sadako a completely evil antagonist and is arguably the more influential film in the way it builds dread from an unseen supernatural presence. There are actually franchises built off of both properties in Japan. I can only hope they went better than American horror franchises did here. I still can’t get over Freddie Krueger rapping.