Monday, December 10, 2012

Asian Horror Online Free: Revengeful Ghost & Real Estate

That will catch on your spam filter!
I can make a case for serious attention to this genre. I think all cultures have more in common with one another than differences, but the differences are delightful and instructive. That is especially so when they are disturbing to one another.
In the late 90's a series of Asian Horror movies were made that had a tremendous impact on the horror film genre. The Ring, The Eye, The Grudge, Pulse, and Spiral, were the most important. The Ring was the best of them, based on the superb horror novel by Koji Suzuki. All but the last have seen American made versions. On the American Ring can compare, and I think it might be even better than the American version. Spiral was brilliant, but perhaps too ethereal for mass market.
I recently discovered a website,, that has a very large collection of Asian movies that you can watch online. All of the above mentioned movies are available. The quality is not great, but the price is right and they are there on demand.
Ju-on, or The Grudge (2003) was one of the most frightening ghost stories I have ever enjoyed. At the small risk of spoiling the surprise, it is a series of small stories, each with the same horrific ending. But American fans may not know that the Japanese movie was itself a remake of a version made for Japanese TV in 2000. I just finished watching that.
The TV version is altogether cheap in production. Poor special effects, modest cinematography (though I can't really judge from the online presentation), good but not great acting, and a very slow pace, all distinguish the TV effort from its polished 2003 incarnation. It was nonetheless marvelously effective. It also fills out the story a bit more.
The center of the action in both movies is a modest Japanese house. In the TV version, the real estate angle is prominent. How do you unload a house that is inhabited by a ghost that gobbles up people whole? Answer: you lie. In the later version, there's a social service angle. Social workers show up to take care of people living in the house, and they get gobbled up along with everyone else.
The first version makes more explicit what the movie version mostly hinted at: a jealous husband murders his wife and son, and that sets off the chain of events. The boy ghost, Toshio, appears frequently. He is a tragic figure, but all the more terrifying in so far as he isn't malevolent but always signals the approach of mommy ghost. It is her rage that is immortal and insatiable. Anyone who enters the house is acquired by her, like the target of a smart missile, and once acquired there is no defense. Anyone who comes into close contact with someone who is already cursed risks infection. "The grudge," or curse, is like a virus: it propagates itself.
Ju-on is in one respect more like Western horror than typical A-Horror. In the latter, the spirit world leaks into the living world more or less like an ecological disaster. It doesn't have to be anyone's fault. In W-Horror, the root of all evil is sin. In Ju-on, adultery that is the root cause of the terror. The violation of marriage vows opens a rift in the fabric between worlds, with all manner of unfortunate consequences. Tell that to a few Republican governors and Senators. Another interesting thing about the TV version is that it reveals a deep angst in Japanese society about children. There is a current of tremendous guilt about having and protecting children that flows just under the surface of the film. In a nation that has virtually stopped having children, it's no wonder.
The alternate versions of Ju-On are book marked with two of the most frightening scenes in modern movie-making. At the beginning of the TV version, a woman walks over a railway overpass and then down backstreet. She stops dead before an unexceptional house (the house) and looks in. If you've seen the other version first, that brief response to the malevolent presence is very effective.
In the second version, after nearly everyone has been consumed by the ghost, the camera focuses on a utility pole with a missing persons notice tacked to it. You see the faces of missing girls and boys. Where did they go? Then the camera pans out to the street. It's empty. Paper is blowing in the wind. No cars. No people. Can we conceive that the anger of one young woman, stored in an empty house like a super battery, could eat the whole world? That is a real estate crisis.
If you like a good spooky story, check out Tell 'em I sent ya.

No comments:

Post a Comment