Sunday, October 23, 2011
October Is Still Spookey Month: Here's Chiaki Kuriyama in an early horror role!
This is a scene from the original direct-to-video Ju-on (2000) that spawned the movie series, the American remake and its sequels. I have no idea about the Ju-on mythology or back story, but I do know the American release of the first theatrical movie has a redundant title, and the Japanese release of the American version has a silly one.
While we tend to like our ghost stories set in the fall during Halloween season, Japanese culture favors the late summer during Obon time. This scene establishes mood early with the oppressive cicada static in the background; that's the soundtrack of summer there in Japan. They still ring in my ears and the I last experienced Japanese summer two years ago. The school bell briefly heard brings back a lot of memories for me as well. The cellphone is a neat plot device-- a more modern conduit for mysterious messages and voices from the other side, but its size and simplicity instantly date this movie. It's a period piece.
The message with the repeating 4s may not seem particularly chilling to Americans like myself, but the Japanese word for 4 is "shi," which also means death, so this is a pun commonly used in J-horror. Come to think of it, it might not be all that frightening even for a Japanese audience, because it's probably cliche by now. Remind me to ask!
Still, four is just not an auspicious number; I used to go get check-ups at a local hospital that had examining rooms numbered 3 and 5, but not 4. But it must be Kuriyama's lucky number, because she also appeared in a movie called Shikoku, the name of one of Japan's main islands (which uses its more benign meaning), but can also mean "land of the dead."
At least in that one, she gets to play the ghost rather than its victim.
Chiaki Kuriyama is one of the coolest people on earth. Unfortunately, I don't find the little kid ghost anywhere near as creepy as Sadako from the Ringu series, or even Tomie. Heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre's Sadako: