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'Ju-on': Amityville By Way of Japan

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004; Page WE45

Talk about a haunted house. The ghosts in this one are so relentless they don't just come after you when you trespass on their property, they follow you home and climb into bed with you.

"Ju-on" wants to give you the willies . . . bad. If anything, the overly familiar ghost story -- about the paranormal aftermath of a gruesome murder -- tries too hard to scare. It's creepy, all right. It's just that how it goes about creeping you out is sometimes just plain cheesy. By which I mean it gets a lot of mileage out of dead folks, particularly one 5-year-old boy in Goth-style white pancake makeup and black eyeliner (shades of Marilyn Manson Jr.) popping up in mirrors and windows. And let's not forget these favorites of the genre: the crackling phone line with no one on the other end; a hissing black cat; a malevolent fog; and, last but not least, the nearly catatonic grandmother too shocked to warn visitors to get out of the house now.

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Timed to coincide with the upcoming release of "The Grudge" ( a remake of "Ju-on" by its original director, Takashi Shimizu, and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar), this Japanese campfire story doesn't so much break new ground in horror as it does put a fresh coat of paint on an old, slightly run-down building. Which is exactly what "The Grudge" seems designed to do, too. Those who wind up seeing both this and its American remake may find themselves scared, but for an unintended reason, when they realize that almost no one, least of all Hollywood, is capable of leaving well enough alone.

JU-ON (R, 92 minutes) --Contains pervasive creepiness, some blood and suggested violence. In Japanese with English subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.


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