• Hope Eliza

How To Watch Ju-On (The Grudge) - A Guide

During the COVID-19 Lockdown, I've been using my spare time to catch up on my favourite Japanese horror films. I've mostly been re-watching films in the Ju-On (The Grudge) film series and after Netflix announced a new Japanese Ju-On: Origins TV series that's due in July - I thought I'd write a short guide to help anyone interested navigate this slightly confusing film series.

If you're not familiar with the premise, here's a summary: the Saeki family curse began after Takeo Saeki murders his wife Kayako because she is in love with another man, also killing their son Toshio, the family cat and then himself. Due to the family dying at the hands of a murderous rage, a grudge is formed - meaning the family return as vengeful ghosts and the Saeki curse begins. Anyone that visits the late family's home contracts the curse which is able to follow them outside the house and haunt whoever contracted it. This is the general premise of the films but as the series develops, small things do change.

What Films?

There are currently 11 films in the Ju-On film series as well as 4 Hollywood remakes, below I have detailed all 11 films in the series:

The Japanese Film Series:

  • Katasumi (1998)

  • 4444444444 (1998)

  • Ju-On: The Curse (2000)

  • Ju-On: The Curse 2 (2000)

  • Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

  • Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003)

  • Ju-On: Black Ghost (2009)

  • Ju-On: White Ghost (2009)

  • Ju-On: The Beginning of the End (2014)

  • Ju-On: The Final Curse (2015)

Not included in that list but also in the franchise includes:

The American Remake series

- The Grudge (2004)

- The Grudge 2 (2006)

- The Grudge 3 (2009)

- The Grudge (2020)

The Crossovers

- Sadako vs Kayako (2016)

- Sadako Wars: Bixian vs Kayako (2017)

I'm just going to focus on the first list of films as they're technically the main ones in the Ju-On series so (should?) fit in with the upcoming TV series.

Where to Begin?

Like with many extensive film series', the best place to start is in the release order, so here is a short summary of each film, so you know what you're in for!

Katasumi / 4444444444 (1998)

These two (low budget) short films were the start of the Ju-On series. Starting with Katasumi - two school girls: Kanna and Hisayo meet their demise at the hand of Kayako whilst tending to the school rabbits.

In 4444444444 (the number 4 is a homophone for the word "death" in Japanese), teenager Tsuyoshi - and Kanna's older brother - is waiting for his girlfriend outside of school. Whilst waiting, Tsuyoshi finds a ringing phone with the caller ID 4444444444 displayed on screen. Once Tsuyoshi answers the phone, Toshio - Kayako's ghostly son - appears next to him and Tsuyoshi is never seen again.

The stories featured in these shorts feature again in the following film...

Ju-On: The Curse (2000)

In the first feature length Ju-On film, school teacher Kobayashi visits one of his students at home after he has missed a considerable amount of school. Kobayashi finds the student, Toshio (yes, Kayako's son) at home, covered in bruises and home alone. Kobayashi waits with Toshio until his parents return home except, they never do.

The film also features the next family to live in the Saeki house (which is where the previous shorts come in), this includes siblings Kanna and Tsuyoshi. We also witness Tsuyoshi's girlfriend Mizuho become entangled with Toshio due to her boyfriend's connection to the house.

This V-Cinema (straight to dvd) film was successful enough to garner a sequel...

Ju-On: The Curse 2 (2000)

This sequel is primarily a retelling of Ju-On: The Curse however continues psychic Kyoko's involvement with the Saeki house, which is briefly introduced in the last film.

This film also introduces the Kitada family and their involvement with Kayako, the extended storyline of Detective Kamio from the previous film and introduces a group of school girls who sneaked into the Saeki house. One of these girls being Izumi Toyama who will appear again in a later film.

This film also has a really cool scene in a school at the end of the film, where multiple Kayako's appear to traumatise a group of school kids.

Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

This is the Ju-On film that everyone is familiar with as it is the film that Hollywood decided to remake in 2004.

In this feature film, Kayako and Toshio are at it again haunting anyone who steps foot in the house that they had died in. This includes the Tokunaga's who have recently moved into the Saeki house and their social worker Rika. Kayako torments the family in and outside of the house which inevitably leads to their deaths/disappearances. Rika then begins being haunted by the Tokuanga's and the Saeki's along with many others that enter the house.

As predicted, this film also got a sequel...

Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003)

In this follow up, pregnant film actress Kyoko - who is known for staring in horror films - is asked to feature in an episode of a paranormal investigation show, filmed at the Saeki house. One evening, whilst driving home, Kyoko and her fiancé Masashi have an encounter with Toshio which turns Kyoko's life and pregnancy upside down. Everybody who featured in the episode at the Saeki house is also haunted by Kayako and Toshio.

The next Ju-On film wouldn't be released until 2009, as a double bill no less...

Ju-On: Black Ghost (2009)

This is the first film in this list and the first film in the Ju-On series that wasn't directed by series creator Takashi Shimizu.

Playing again with the idea of a "grudge", school girl Fukie is rushed to hospital after having strange fits. After running a few tests, doctors ascertain that Fukie has a cyst inside her stomach that was once her twin sister that was absorbed in the womb. Who now holds a grudge against Fukie and her mother for not being born so begins terrorising people via spiritual possession.

Ju-On: White Ghost (2009)

Ju-On: Black Ghost premiered alongside Ju-On: White Ghost in cinemas across Japan in 2009. Both films run parallel although they primarily focus on their own stories.

In White Ghost, the Isobe family have just moved into a new house. Unbeknown to the family, a murder took place in this house before and the grudge still remains. This causes another similar situation to occur and a new "Saeki house" is created.

Years later, a group of high school girls use a Ouija board to contact spirits and accidentally summon the family from the house above.

Ju-On: The Beginning of the End (2014)

This film replicates ideas first explored in earlier Ju-On films, however rewrites the Saeki's backstory. In Ju-On: The Beginning of the End, 4 school girls visit a supposedly haunted house. Inside, the girls encounter a number of creepy findings including gruesome drawings and black goo. Later, each girl is picked off by Toshio with their deaths mirroring the drawings they found.

10 years later, school teacher Yui becomes concerned when one of her students Toshio has stopped attending class (remember Ju-On: The Curse?) so attempts to talk to his parents at the Saeki house.

Ju-On: The Final Curse (2015)

Teenager Reo and her mother take in Reo's cousin Toshio due to his parent's deaths. Once Toshio moves in, strange haunting begin to happen to not only the family but Reo's friends too.

This film links back to Ju-On: The Beginning of the End with hotel worker

Mai wondering about her sister Yui (remember her?) who she has since lost contact with. This causes Mai to investigate the Saeki house and become entangled with Kayako and Toshio as well.

This is technically the latest Ju-On film in the series, however Sadako vs Kayako (2016) a Ring crossover film was released the year after this instalment.

What's Next?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, this month it was announced that a Ju-On TV series was coming to Netflix in July 2020!

Everything we know so far:

  • Plot: Haruka is tormented by the constant noise of footsteps in her home so calls upon psychic researcher Yasuo who she met on a reality TV show.

  • It was co-written by Takashige Ichise who also co-wrote Ju-On: The Beginning of the End (2014) and Ju-On: The Final Curse (2015).

  • It'll be made up of 6 episodes.

  • It will be released on the 3rd July (worldwide, unsure?)

The Trailer

Are you excited for Ju-On: Origins? Do you have many Ju-On films to catch up on before hand? Have you already seen all the films mentioned above? Let me know!

For more of my J-Horror posts take a look at the suggested posts below and my other work at nerdoutwordout.com!

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