The Grudge finally figures out how to be interesting again after more than a decade.
The series covers a number of the hauntings and horrible events that take place in the house that would later be the site of the movie The Grudge. Among the primary characters are schoolgirl Kiyomi Kawaii (Ririka), paranormal investigator Yasuo Odajima (Yoshiyori Arakawa), and actress Haruka Honjo (Yuina Kuroshima). It starts in the late ‘80s and follows the characters up until the late ‘90s, presumably until right before the murders of Kayako and Toshio starts the traditional Ju-On film series.
So, I enjoyed the original Grudge films when I was in High School and I even enjoyed the first two American remakes (put your pitchforks down, purists, the Japanese ones were still better). Unfortunately, as these things tend to do, the quality dropped and the plots got progressively more insane in the films until we finally got the The Grudge and The Ring crossover, Sadako vs. Kayako, a movie that literally started as an April Fools Day joke. The American remake of The Grudge tried a reboot earlier this year and, while it may have made its money back, it got raked over the coals by the critics and most audiences. Based on the progression of this series, I had assumed that this Netflix series was going to be a crapfest of confusing schlock. The title of the first review I saw about it called it the worst Netflix series, so I thought I was going to be correct. However, after watching it, I can say that no, this is actually a pretty solid way to breathe life back into a dead property. Sometimes forcing myself to watch stuff I think will be terrible for this blog pays off.
I’m not going to say that the plot isn’t confusing, because yeah, it definitely is. Some parts of the story are told nonlinearly and there are a few parts of the film that are actually told by having the house operate in multiple timelines simultaneously (if that makes any sense). I think there were a few times where I had to pause to try and figure out the plot in my head, but, overall, that never took away from the horror or the character development within the show. Ju-On Origins spends most of its time reminding us that while the house that bears the curse is evil, it often is just preying on the wickedness that humans already have within our hearts. While the original series usually featured ghosts killing or torturing people, in this, most of the horror is from humanity at its worst.
I will go ahead and warn anyone with a weak stomach to avoid this series like the plague. Some of the stuff in here is designed to make even the most hardened horror veteran a bit queasy. Famed special effects artist Screaming Mad George, one of my favorites, did the makeup and some of the effects, and if you know his work (Bride of Re-Animator, Society), you know that it is gruesome. If you are used to the kind of jump-scare horror that populated the original series, then you may also be disappointed, because this show reduced that and instead focused on crafting a mystery that keeps you on your toes. Because this takes place before the events that spawned the signature “grudge,” the rules of how the world works are much different, because the house doesn’t yet have a focus for its energy. This might be the smartest thing about the series, because it means that we aren’t looking for the same old tropes repeated from the films. The only constant is that if the Grudge wants you, you can’t escape it.
Overall, I really liked this. I get that it’s convoluted, but once you get past that, it’s a solid show. Honestly, you don’t have to know anything about the previous films to enjoy this series. Oh, and use the subtitles. The dub isn’t great.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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