Alongside The Ring (Ringu), one nightmarish legend that’s stood the test of time is Ju-On. Later adapted to American screens for The Grudge, Ju-On is a deeply disturbing horror film that’s now translated across to the small screen for a TV prequel looking at the origins of this nightmare.
As we’re told early on in episode 1 of Ju-On: Origins, the events we see are presumed to be real and gravitate around one seriously spooky house.
We begin our tale in 1988 with paranormal investigator Yasuo on TV interviewing a girl called Haruka about her frightening experience. In his apartment, Yasuo receives a tape she’s recorded full of strange sounds. As he listens intently, the same tape is then played on TV and the group debate about what they’ve heard.
Not long after, Yasuo meets Tetsuya and finds out more about the house he visited. Through a series of different flashbacks, we see him walk through the various rooms but something is clearly not right.
Meanwhile, new student Kiyomi Kawai enrolls at school but unfortunately her Tamajo Uniform means she stands out. Two girls approach her after class and invite her along to the abandoned mansion. When she heads home, it’s clear Kiyomi doesn’t have the best family life, given her abusive mother, and a news report indicates that a little girl called Natsuki has been declared missing.
When Haruka heads home after a busy day at work, she finds Tetsuya sleeping on the floor. After waking him, they discuss Yasuo’s questioning earlier in the day before the sound of footsteps scurry across the floor.
As Tetsuya’s eyes widen with fear, he looks over and sees the door also happens to be open and as the lights switch on, Tetsuya takes a deep breath and steps into the room. Only, as he does, from the doorway our ghostly girl arrives bearing the familiar croaking sound. Thankfully Hakura arrives and manages to save him at the last second.
The next day Kiyomi heads to the mansion and the group sneak inside. Leaving their shoes by the door, the students start looking around but unfortunately it turns out to be a trap and Kiyomi is pinned down while Yudai approaches her, grinning maniacally.
The Review Write-Up
One of the biggest problems with modern horror comes from its bloated length. While The Haunting Of Hill House is a bit of an exception to the rule, generally 50 minute episodes are incredibly difficult to manage from a horror perspective and sometimes it does show.
Here though, Ju-On: Origins wastes little time getting right to the heart of the drama but what it delivers in drama, it sacrifices in scares. There really isn’t a lot going on here and despite one creepy scene late on, a lot of what we see is character building and setting the scene for what’s to come.
Hopefully this is just foundational work and Origins can conjure up the scares we know this series can produce.