Ju-On: Origins

Dept. of Grudges, Scares, and Bloody Murder


It’s rare that a horror series, consisting of over 13 entries stretching over 20 years, manages to reinvent itself successfully, and yet it’s a trick that Ju-On: Origins manages to pull off. A feat that is all the more remarkable considering the franchise had already jumped the shark by crossing the Freddy vs. Jason line and pitched it’s supernatural antagonist up against another IP, as seen in The Ring crossover Sadako vs. Kayako.

If you haven’t seen any of the Ju-On films, the concept is simple. Sometimes when a person dies in the grips of a powerful rage, a curse is born. In the Ju-On series, the curse is usually tied to a specific house in Tokyo. Almost everyone who passes through its hallways ends up dying horrifically.

Don’t Open, Dead Inside

Ju-On: Origins THE house

The curse usually manifests in the form of a pale as death young boy, who screeches like a cat, as well as a forlorn woman. Announcing her presence with a terrible, gurgling death rattle, Kayako frequently ends her victims by consuming them in her long, black hair. What separated Ju-On: The Grudge from being just another haunted house story was its relatively mundane filming style, which contrasted with its then inventive take on ghosts, and the fact that the curse could stay with you after you’d left the house. It could even be passed on to others unknowingly. Once the victims died, they too would become part of the curse. Appearing as terrifying ghosts to others, in the both past and future, often dooming them to a similar fate.

A bit of a fan of the 90’s wave of Japanese horror, including the original Ju-On: The Grudge, I couldn’t help but groan internally as the series opened clunkily with the line:

Ju-On was based upon real events, however the real life events were far more frightening than any movie(Emphasis mine)

Over its 6 episodes however, Origins more than lives up to that bold claim.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Ju-On: Origins  Yoshiyoshi Arakawa & Yuina Kuroshima
Yasuo Odajima

Beginning in 1988, a paranormal investigator, Yasuo Odajima (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa), helps a young actress (Yuina Kuroshima) investigate some strange noises in her apartment. As his investigation continues it reveals that the source of her problems may be a visit to a certain cursed house by someone close to her. In keeping with the rest of the franchise, as Ju-On: Origins series continues, jumping forwards and backwards in time, various other characters/victims are introduced and end up passing through the house for one reason or another. Some are dispatched almost immediately, while others stick around for a number of episodes, surviving, yet never quite escaping, the horror of the curse. Their fates slowly provide more and more evidence for Odajima to try and locate the actual house for personal reasons. The characters may never have been the main selling point of the Ju-On series, as so many are introduced and dispatched in such a short period of time, but they are handled deftly enough here that each loss is felt.

Despite the hackneyed “Origins” suffix and a relatively slow start, Ju-On: Origins develops into a truly terrifying experience, in nice, short, bloody chunks.

Unlike the recent Sam Raimi produced American remake, writers Hiroshi Takahashi (Ringu, Ju-on: The Grudge) and Takashige Ichise (producer on Ringu, Ju-on: The Grudge, and Dark Water) cleverly strip the nightmare back to its roots. Gone is the long black hair, no longer scary after being overused on so many films, and mocked mercilessly in Scary Movie. Rather than just reusing the distinctive death rattle that announced the spirits arrival, Origins updates it and adds a number of new twists. Now it belongs to host of new characters, produced in a gruesome manner related to their deaths. Even the scary cat’s screech is updated with a number of different variations, almost all of which are bloody terrifying.

Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself (And That’s a Lot)

Over the course of the series, Origins builds on its effective repertoire of jump scares, gore, and looming background horror, to add new scares to the menu, with some incredibly unsettling imagery in the later episodes. As a long time fan of Asian horror, many of the scares sent chills down my spine. It never becomes stale, however, and even throws in some mind boggling horror moments in broad daylight that wouldn’t feel out of place in David Lynch’s Twin Peak: The Return.

Not all the horror is supernatural. While no one truly deserves the fate meted out by “The Grudge”, some are a little more worthy of their fate than others. The show really should include a content warning for rape, child abuse, and domestic violence, as even without the influence of the grudge, it features some truly shocking scenes. Expectant mothers should also steer well clear of the show unless they have a cast iron constitution. I don’t even want to think about what befalls many of the numerous pregnant women in the series.

Unrelenting Dread… In a Good Way!

The sense of dread permeates the series is reinforced by the televisions in the background of many scenes. They only show news footage of actual historical nightmares, from Chernobyl, to earthquakes, to the Sarin gas attacks on the subways of Tokyo. Despite the supernatural elements, the mundane horrors of reality are never distant.

It was an odd choice to add another entry to the Ju-On franchise, and an even odder one to reshape it as a six episode TV series, that either ignores many of the series tropes, or reinvents them entirely.

For this seasoned fan of Asian Horror, however, it’s a very successful, and nightmare inducing, return.

Ju-On: Origins
Netflix , Season 1, 6 episodes
Director: Sho Miyake
Starring: Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Yuina Kuroshima, Ririka, Koki Osamura, Seiko Iwaido, Kai Inowaki, Tei Ryushin, Yuya Matsuura, Kaho Tsuchimura, Tokio Emoto, Nobuko Sendo, and Kana Kurashina

Ju-On: Origins launches worldwide on Netflix on Friday, July 3 2020.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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