Two central performances in Isola: Persona 13 -- the possessed Chihiro (Yu Kurosawa) & the mind-reading Yukari (Yoshino Kimura) -- are played with such seriousness & talent, I really liked the characters.
Isola provides a story of madness, possession, alienation, & special powers. The horror element is muted until the climax, & even the murderous capacity of Chihiro's thirteen personality could've led to greater intensity than this. Still, it really is good to see such a dark fantasy that is entirely character-driven rather than gore-FX driven.
Despite it's international success momentarily reviving the "J-horror" craze of the late 1990s, the story of Ju-on: The Grudge was just too awfully thin, made "elaborate" by confusing editing tricks & rapid shifts of character viewpoint (hence no protagonist to follow through the tale) & indecipherable timelines. This result in more muddle that so small a story requires, & its lack of clarity makes even its effective bits more jack-in-the-box stunts than a good film.
An elder care worker (Megumi Okina) is sent out to care for a bedridden old woman, who lives in a bland non-atmospheric apartment no one would expect to be haunted. It is, however, quite grotesquely & dangerously haunted. The banality of the setting does effectively convey that one doesn't have to spend the night in a gothic mansion or ancient ruin to be doomed; it could happen anywhere where someone died in a fit of rage, lingering therefore as a vengeful spirit.
Although it's a second-rate Japanese horror film compared to Ringu (1998) or Audition (1999), some of the imagery is nevertheless beautiful in a horrific manner, so it outranks the average low-budget horror film from Canada & the United States.
Like Ringu before it, it was remade in English. The Grudge, follows the original script fairly closely. Unlike other Englished remakes supplanting Japanese cast with Caucasians, this one keeps the original director, & still takes place in Japan, thus a complete aesthetic understanding of the original is left intact. It attempts to improve on the FX thanks to an unnecessarily larger budget, & it strives to be a little less confusing in the time-shift editing. But it is not in total an improvement.
The two films are perhaps too much alike to really consider the remake on its own merits. It becomes difficult to judge a remake fairly when seen too soon on the heals of the original. But most of the faults of the original are retained in the Englished version, & worse, it stars Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who just ruins it completely with her amazingly crappy acting.
Nevertheless, like the original, it has a surprisingly classy veneer & unlike American horror does not rely on splatters of blood make the viewer jump. If you don't have time to watch the same film twice in two languages, I'd recommend the original Japanese cast foremost as they're way better actors. But if you're the sort who really cannot abide subtitles, then the Englished remake won't disappoint.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl