Starring Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Yuina Kuroshima, Ririki.
Horror, Japan.

Now Streaming on Netflix.


From its short film origins, the Ju-On franchise continues to sprawl across the screen spreading its curse on the unfortunate and the unwitting. Now for the second time in under a year, after the underwhelming American remake/sequel/reboot, the audience is taken back to the beginning to uncover the true cause of the curse with this Netflix series that provides a fresh spin on the mythos that could attract a whole new audience unfamiliar with the spooky croaking Kayako and her young son.


Long-time fans looking forward to the crawling, long haired ghoul may walk away disappointed as what we are treated to here is a very different take on events. The opening voiceover claims that what we are about to watch is the actual true story that inspired the original series of films. “The real events were far more frightening than the movies.” We are warned. Through the course of these six episodes there are enough spectral events to keep fans and newcomers onside but alongside all of this is an added dose of harrowing physical and sexual abuse that will no doubt jolt viewers expecting nothing more than a spooky ghost story.


Beginning in 1988, paranormal writer Odajima meets actress Haruka on a supernatural panel show where the young woman claims to be hearing strange noises and footsteps in her small apartment. It soon becomes apparent that something strange has followed Haruka’s boyfriend, Tetsuya, back from the abandoned house he was looking to buy. At the same time teenage Kiyomi has moved to a new school and is invited to the very same house and suffers a physical attack that kick starts a chain of horrific events that carry on into the next decade where these two different plot strands come together when the secrets of the sinister house are revealed.


JU-ON: ORIGINS is sure to please fans who have been missing the glory days of J-Horror. This series cleverly uses a number of tropes from the genre and the franchise, the guttural croaking is ever present as is the time hopping structure where events of the present collide with those of the past. Also present is a melancholy edge to the proceedings as Kiyomi’s life goes off the rails whilst Odajima begins to investigate his own troubling past. Playing out against real life events popping up on the news in the background, such as the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and the Hanshin earthquake, there is a genuine air of unease permeating throughout the whole series


This could perhaps be the most disturbing iteration of JU-ON yet thanks to some surreal and grisly imagery courtesy of the practical effects of the legendary Screaming Mad George. Telephones are used to disturbing effect multiple times here, whether as instruments of murder or where they end up being placed whilst still in use. A night time visit in a jail cell also provides a memorably twisted opportunity for Screaming Mad George to flex his surreal skills that have been much missed since his glory days in the 1980’s and 90’s.


Told in six half hour episodes this is one of those series that can be binged in a speedy fashion. It comes to a satisfactory enough conclusion but raises enough questions that a second season could investigate further. It may not actually do anything new with the genre but as a reboot it succeeds enough on its own terms and pays its respects to the original films admirably.


Iain MacLeod.


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