I remember watching both of these films when I was younger and not liking them very much or finding them very scary. Now that I’ve had another chance to see them again I feel a greater appreciation for why some people found them so terrifying. What I found most interesting about these two films is how similar and different they are. Both films take place in Japan, have the same director, and story, but they both have cultural differences that affect the tone of the film for better or worse.
Ju-on’s story is fairly confusing, and not all the plot details appear clearly. I was confused most of the time about the story of the curse in the house, the significance of Toshio, the little boy, and the different subplots for all the characters that inhabited the house. My confusion mainly stemmed from how the movie would jump all over the place to focus on different characters instead of following a linear structure.
In contrast, I found The Grudge more watchable because of the better production values and that the branching plot lines. However, I was surprised that the film didn’t have any transitions like Ju-on did and still found it confusing when the plot jumped to different characters without warning. What I took issue from this version is how Americanized it was. It didn’t make any sense that there were so many Americans working with Karen in Japan and her romantic relationship with Doug felt unnecessary. In regards to the ending, I liked The Grudge one better because Ju-on felt too anticlimactic.
Another cultural difference between each film is the scare factor. In Ju-on the monsters are much slower and don’t move much. While the monsters appear, more menacing and the horror scenes are longer with more threatening elements in The Grudge. I think these changes help because the slower pace of Ju-on wouldn’t be very scary to an American audience. Another thing I felt The Grudge did better than Ju-on was the burping sound from the monster that I found laughably bad in the original. Still, despite taking different approaches both films relied on setting up their scares with creative uses of light and sound over using gore like traditional American horror films.
To summarize, I think both films contained similar characteristics with enough differences to make each version unique. I also felt that The Grudge was a more faithful to Ju-on then The Ring was to Ringu. I liked The Grudge best because it had better production values, and it was scarier than Ju-on. Finally, I would be curious to see how The Grudge would have turned out if it had taken place in America as opposed to Japan.