Not only do the Japanese produce arguably the best contemporary horror movies in the world, there’s just something about watching another culture’s subtitled take on our most primal fears that intensifies the experience. The Grudge: White Ghost, Black Ghost is actually two films produced in honour of the 10th anniversary of the original Ju-on film ("The Grudge" is the loose, English translation of Juon and also the name adopted for all Western adaptations and most subtitled releases). The two films are unrelated to the original in all but name and nature; the Ju-on series tells unique tales about vengeful ghosts who, out of anger at the circumstances of their own deaths, will kill all those who come into contact with them.
The stories of White Ghost and Black Ghost unfold using the increasingly popular method where events are seen from a variety of perspectives and even points in time. Subsequently, more and more is revealed to the viewer as the narrative progresses. As such, it’s really difficult to elaborate on the films’ plots without leaping into spoiler territory. I will say, though, that it’s clever stuff, and makes for some fairly nail-biting viewing. There are one or two fairly brutal scenes, too, but the faint of heart surely already know to steer clear of these films.
Of the two, the first film is arguably superior, although part of this lies in the fact that the premise feels slightly played out by the time you get most of the way through the second film. Black Ghost also doesn’t seem to tie together as well as White Ghost, with some story arcs left curiously unfinished. And if the package as a whole suffers from one thing, it’s that it really is more of the same as the original Juon. That film helped bring Japanese horror to the fore, and was new and different. These two films simply retread the same ground, and bring little new to the table outside of different tales. Those not won over by the first won’t be swayed by these fi lms. Fans will, naturally, lap them up, although their impact may well be lessened. It is, however, as good a starting point as any to the world of Japanese horror for newcomers.