New Sequels for JU-ON/THE GRUDGE
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details for new movies.
In 1998, writer-director Takashi Shimizu was hired by Kansai TV to create two short segments for their J-horror anthology film SCHOOL OF GHOSTS G (Gakko no Kaidan G). Shimizu produced two shorts, IN A CORNER (Katasumi) and 4444444444, that featured Kayako Saeki (Takako Fuji), a twisted, death-rattling female ghost, and her son Toshio, a ghost boy that howled like a cat.
The two short films were a hit with terrified viewers so, with the assistance of RING (Ringu, 1998) screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi and producer Taka Ichise, Takashi Shimizu developed the ideas into the straight-to-video movies JU-ON (released on Feb 11, 2000) and JU-ON 2 (released March 25, 2000). The video movies introduced and fleshed out many of the now-familiar concepts from the series, including a powerful curse that spreads and destroys anyone who enters the house where Kayako and Toshio were murdered.
The popularity of the straight-to-video JU-ON movies convinced Ichise that he might have another RING-level franchise on his hands. He commissioned Shimizu to write and direct a theatrical version. The 2003 feature film, also called JU-ON (and marketed overseas as JU-ON: THE GRUDGE), was another critical and commercial success. It was soon followed by a theatrical JU-ON 2 (2003), considered by some as the best film in the series to date.
The American remake of THE RING (2002) had been a worldwide box office hit, and US studios were eager to follow up with more adaptations of J-horror films. Sam Raimi’s (EVIL DEAD, SPIDER-MAN) production company Ghost House Pictures snapped up remake rights to JU-ON. In a surprise move, Takashi Shimizu was asked to direct the US version. Called THE GRUDGE, the US version starred Sarah Michelle Gellar (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and Jason Behr (DRAGON WARS: D-WAR). Released by Sony Pictures in 2004, THE GRUDGE went on to earn $188 million worldwide.
Shimizu and Gellar were joined by actress Amber Tamblyn (JOAN OF ARCADIA) for the 2006 sequel THE GRUDGE 2. In addition to menacing the characters in Japan, the Ju-On curse followed one of its victims— a foreign exchange student played by Arielle Kebbel (THE UNINVITED)— back to her home in Chicago. The second American film did not fare as well with critics or audiences, earning less than $71 million worldwide.
As a promotional tie-in for THE GRUDGE 2, Ghost House produced three online short films showing the spread of the curse in America. Entitled TALES FROM THE GRUDGE, these shorts were directed by by special effects artist Toby Wilkins, marking the first time a Ju-On film or video was not directed by Takashi Shimizu and did not feature Takako Fuji in the role of Kayako. The TALES FROM THE GRUDGE episodes were included on Sony’s THE GRUDGE 2 DVD.
2009 is the tenth year of JU-ON/THE GRUDGE films. To celebrate that milestone, three new films— one in America and two in Japan— will be released over the next few months.
THE GRUDGE 3
First up is THE GRUDGE 3, the straight-to-DVD sequel from Ghost House Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that will be released on May 12. Directed by Toby Wilkins and written by Brad Keene (THE GRAVEDANCERS), THE GRUDGE 3 was produced by Andrew Pfeffer, Taka Ichise, Jeffery Beach and Phillip Roth, and executive produced by Roy Lee, Doug Davison, Takashi Shimizu and J.R. Young.
The story picks up from the events of THE GRUDGE 2, with Kayako (now played by Aiko Horiuchi) and Toshio (Shimba Tsuchiya) now haunting an apartment building in Chicago. Jake Kimble (Matthew Knight), the sole survivor of the previous movie, has been confined to a psychiatric hospital following his family’s alleged murder/suicide. The boy is tortured by chilling visions of the deadly ghosts; and before too long Kayako and Toshio appear to finish what they started.
Following Jake’s death, his caretaker, Dr. Ann Sullivan (Shawnee Smith of the SAW films), decides to investigate his horrifying tales. She explores his Chicago home and finds building manager Max (Gil McKinney) and his sisters Lisa (Johanna Braddy) and Rose (Jadie Hobson) on the brink of succumbing to the curse.
The grudge continues to claim new victims. After the bizarre disappearance of Brenda (Mihaela Nankova)— a teenager who recently moved out of the building— and the violent death of tenant Gretchen (Marina Sirtis, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), it becomes clear that Jake’s terrifying stories of an ever-growing rage were true.
News of the deaths in Chicago reaches Kayako’s mysterious sister Naoko (Emi Ikehata) in Japan. Naoko believes that she knows the secret that could end the grudge once and for all… but will she be able to stop Kayako and Toshio, or will she become yet another victim of the monstrous spirits?
THE GRUDGE 3 has a running time of approximately 90 minutes and is rated R (a first for the American series) for “violence, disturbing images and language”. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Language options are English 5.1 and French (Canadian) 5.1 audio, plus English, French (Parisian), and Spanish (Latin American) subtitles.
Special Features include 4:25 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a featurette entitled TOKYAGOARIA that details the filming of a movie set in Tokyo and Chicago but shot on sets in Bulgaria (running time 9:45 minutes), THE CURSE CONTINUES featurette about the filmmakers’ efforts to continue and update the Ju-On franchise (6 minutes), and previews for several Sony DVD and Blu-ray titles. THE GRUDGE 3 will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.96.
Also coming next week is the Blu-ray debut of THE GRUDGE, containing both the theatrical and unrated versions. The disc also includes special features from the earlier DVD releases: commentary tracks with Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Takashi Shimizu, Taka Ichise, and Takako Fuji; Deleted Scenes with optional commentary, MYTH OF THE JU-ON featurette; UNDER THE SKIN featurette; SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: The Storyboard Art of Takashi Shimizu; PRODUCTION DESIGNER’S NOTEBOOK: The Sketches of Iwao Saito; and the original Ju-On short films 4444444444 and IN A CORNER. The SRP is $28.95.
The New JU-ONs
In early April, it was announced that Takashi Shimizu and Taka Ichise were overseeing two new chapters in the Ju-On series. Both films— JU-ON: WHITE GHOST (Ju-On: Shiroi Rojo, lit.”The Grudge: Old Lady in White”) and JU-ON: BLACK GHOST (Ju-On: Kuroi Shojo, lit. “The Grudge: Girl in Black”)— will be released theatrically in Japan on June 27.
With Kayako and Toshio currently menacing America, the new Japanese installments instead focus on fresh interpretations of the grudge curse.
JU-ON: WHITE GHOST stars nineteen year old J-idol Akina Minami as Akane, a high school student who can sense supernatural phenomena. After failing the bar exam, a distraught young man murders his parents and siblings and then hangs himself. At the crime scene, police find an audio recording of the man and an unidentified female voice saying “Go now”.
One of the victims was the childhood friend of Akane’s. And now Akane keeps seeing a ghost in a yellow hat and carrying a red handbag just like she and her friend had back in elementary school…
Rounding out the cast for JU-ON: WHITE GHOST are Hiroki Suzuki (ENGINE SENTAI GO-ONGER VS GEKIRANGER), Mihiro (SHINJUKU SWAN), Aimi Nakamura (PERSONA), Marika Fukunaga (TOKYO GIRL), Akiko Hoshino (SAKURAN), Takuji Suzuki (writer and director of ONE PIECE!), Tsuyoshi Muro (SUMMER TIME MACHINE BLUES), and Ichirota Miyagawa (ULTRAMAN ZEARTH 2). According to Japanese reports, more than a dozen filmmakers were considered for the project before Shimizu and Ichise decided that Ryuta Miyake (the TALES OF TERROR FROM TOKYO series) would write and direct the film. It is based on a story by Takashi Shimizu and Kei Ooishi, author of the novelizations of JU-ON and the Korean films OLDBOY (2003) and THE UNINVITED (Sa Inyong Siktak, 2003).
JU-ON: BLACK GHOST stars former Morning Musume member Ai Kago as Yuko, a nurse caring for a young girl named Fukie who has a cyst growing inside her body. The cyst turns out to be the grudge of Fukie’s unborn twin, and soon the curse spreads to her father, transforming him into a homicidal madman. When Fukie’s sister and mother trying to stop the Ju-On it retaliates with even greater fury.
The film was directed by Mari Asato (SAMURAI CHICKS) and is also based on the stories of Takashi Shimizu and Kei Ooishi.
In addition to Ai Kago, JU-ON: BLACK GHOST stars Koji Seto (MASKED RIDER DEN-O & KIVA THE MOVIE), Yuri Nakamura (R246 STORY), Maria Takagi (NOROI THE CURSE), Hana Matsumoto, Yuno Nakazono (HANAYOME TO PAPA), Kana Tsugihara (YOMUTOSHINO: DEATH COMIC PART 1), and Masanobu Katsumura (HERO).
The new films were made by a partnership of the production companies Cell, Oz (JU-ON, KAIDAN), and Toei Video Co, with Kadokawa Pictures handling international sales. No word yet if and when JU-ON: BLACK GHOST and JU-ON: WHITE GHOST may be released in America.