The series tells the story of a supernatural investigator (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) collecting ghost stories. He meets an actress who has a real doozy for him. Her boyfriend had visited a house, which turned out to be the same one from Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), and may have returned with a curse. They hear footsteps in the middle of the night and other strange sounds. When the boyfriend dies mysteriously, the investigator becomes fixated with trying to find the house that set these events in motion. This takes viewers to the house where the movie’s grudge-bearing ghosts were created with a grisly act of violence.
The first impression
Netflix’s prequel series to J-horror movie staple Ju On: The Grudge tells a story centered around the house from the original film. As with the movies, the story shifts focus between the various characters visiting the property or living in it, but all the stories are loosely connected to that of the supernatural investigator. The show tells viewers that the original movies were based on a true story (because of course they were. Where would the horror genre be if that trope didn’t exist?). On paper, this series doesn’t appear to present anything new, but scratch the surface and you have an incredibly intense series with a winding narrative and unsettling themes and atmosphere that separates itself from its source material, while still being worthy of it.
It’s worth mentioning that this is not a show for everyone. Ju-On: Origins is not the fun jump scare-riddled ride most people expect of the genre. There are shows that are a bit difficult to watch, but still fun and then there are those that are deeply uncomfortable. Most viewers would describe Ju On: Origins as the latter. The show contains moments that will shock even the most desensitised viewers to their core. It’s not the franchise’s ghosts and their eerie sounds that are frightening in this series, it’s the people and the acts of violence they commit. Make sure you don’t have any snacks while you watch this either because this show has some gory scenes. There’s rape, child abuse and even a particularly disturbing improvised C-section, all presented in a pretty unapologetic manner.
What’s impressive about the series is that even when it’s not leaning on its more shocking moments, the show manages to create an atmosphere that is extremely oppressive and unsettling. The the whole series is thick with a sense of foreboding and tension. There’s something to be said for anything put to film that makes its audience feel deeply, even if what they feel is discomfort. All things considered, Ju-On: Origins a series that looks at the world through a bleak lens. The story suggests that it’s not things that go bump in the night that people should be afraid of, it’s the people around you. It’s one with more to say than the average creep show and the show says it in the most blunt manner possible.
WATCH OR NOT
While The Grudge, Hollywood’s take on J-horror staple Ju-On: The Grudge provided an enjoyable horror story, Ju-On: Origins, Netflix’s attempt at reviving the The Grudge in series form, takes the franchise in a new, brutal direction. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it has more going for it than your typical jump scares. If you have the stomach for it, Ju On: Origins is definitely a unique viewing experience, telling a story of how violence and abuse comes back to haunt people.
Director: Shô Miyake
Cast: Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Yuina Kuroshima
Seasons: 1 (2020)
Streaming on: Netflix