July 19, 2011

Ju-on: White Ghost / Black Ghost (2009)

(AKA Ju-on: Shiroi rôjo & Ju-on: Kuroi shôjo)

"Writer-director Takashi Shimizu toasts the 10th anniversary of his influential horror film Ju-on with two spooky shorts. In "White Ghost," a psychic teen terrorizes his family. In "Black Ghost," a patient learns the truth about a cyst in her body."

Although both these stories are written by the director of "Ju-on", the helm has been slightly handed over to Ryûta Miyake and Mari Asato respectively. You can still tell that Takashi Shimizu had a lot of input other than just writing. In spite of a much lower budget than the original "Ju-on" which makes them look more like TV episodes rather than movies, they are just as creepy as the rest of the series and a lot better than the American remakes.

Packaging these two shorts together is probably the best way of marketing them as the difference in style can be compared to "Two Evil Eyes" (1990) in that one film is slightly better than the other and you would be unlikely to want it individually.

Ryûta Miyake's "White Ghost" (AKA "The Grudge: Old Lady in White") is very much in the tradition of the very first "Ju-on" with a mixed-up chronological order and brutal murders which stain anyone who comes into even indirect contact with them. It's a bit like the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing but more contagious and deadly. Anyone who knows someone involved ends up cursed.

There isn't really a lot I can say about "White Ghost" without giving away spoilers but the special effects are quite realistic and one kill in particular involving a baseball bat works very well indeed. The old woman of the title is really freaky in a very Bette Davis way.

Mari Asato's "Black Ghost" (AKA "The Grudge: Girl in Black") isn't so good though I think that watching it immediately after "White Ghost" is the biggest problem. On its own it wouldn't be a bad film and it has a strong start but it's undoubtedly the very weakest link in the "Ju-on" movies in much the same way that "The Grudge 3" was for the American series.

I have no idea why the ghostly little boy, Toshio, even makes a cameo appearance in "Black Ghost" (especially without his cat) apart from force-feeding the story into the rest of the "Ju-on" series as I started to mentally switch off during all the ridiculous stuff in the hospital and couldn't be bothered to watch it through again.

Whereas I quite enjoyed "White Ghost", I found that I couldn't get into "Black Ghost" to the same extent. There isn't much to choose from between them but the second story is noticeably weaker and, maybe it's just me, but I found it to be too overacted and comedic in places to be genuinely scary.

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