Avril Lavigne J-Pop Salute not Racist it is Kawaii

Avril Lavigne J-Pop Salute not Racist it is Kawaii

So according to all those that claim to know these things, Avril Lavigne’s J-pop salute is racist, I beg to differ, it is not, it is kawaii. Let me explain. Quite a lot of people have been explaining that the opening line, “Mina saiko arigato,” translates to “I’m rocking thanks.” They have, thus far left out the translation for kawaii. For those that are curious, it means cute.

 

Ju-On: White Ghost and Ju-On: Black Ghost (2009): Grudge of a Different Colour

I have opted to review both these ‘films’ together as their total running time apiece is 61 minutes, hardly the length of your run-of-the-mill movie. Despite their title’s making use of the Ju-On phrase that had been developed by Film Auteur Takashi Shimzu, these films have nothing to do with the original films that shot Shimzu to such heights of popularity in the horror world.

The film’s credits do give a grudging (sorry) nod to Shimzu as the Ju-On creator with a ‘based on characters created by’ tag. Both the Ju-On’s were released simultaneously on the tenth anniversary of the original Ju-on’s as a sort of ‘honour’ to Shimzu and his films.

Ju-On: White Ghost (originally titled Ju-On Old Lady in White) is directed by Ryûta Miyake. I may be a bit obtuse, but after watching this film twice, I cannot for the life of me understand several things about the film. Why, for instance, is the ghost a ‘little old lady’ who carries a basketball with her everywhere? Why is that considered terrifying by those who meet her? What connection does this little old lady ghost have with the school girl in the yellow hat?

Do you even care?

That this is a homage is obvious. the director uses all the same shock tactics and build-ups that Takashi Shimzu used in his films that later became a standard for all his Grudge films. The only thing that Miyake’s film has in common with Shimzu’s original  is the murder of a family in  Japan‘s suburban world.

It is an interesting film. Scary in the right places and utilizing the slow build-up and disjointed segments that Shimzu used so well in his films. It is a homage and as such does not rely on blazing originality to make it’s point. At 61 minutes it is better to watch this one with it’s ‘sister’ film Ju-On: Black Ghost to give you a more ‘cinematic’ feeling when you’re done rather than the’special of the week’ feeling that a film just over an hour long leaves you with.

Now on to Ju-On: Black Ghost (or Girl in Black, the original title) it too is 61 minutes long. Directed by  Mari Asato the plot of Black Ghost is a bit convoluted and confusing. It never goes on to explain why the Grudge spirit in this film is all in black. Like the basketball playing grandma in the first film, we never find out why this black apparition is terrifying or why she’s even there.

The plot of this film revolves around a cyst found in a young girl (Fukie) that is the result of her ingesting her unborn twin while in her mother’s uterus. Sound familiar? If it does, it’s not because it was ever used as a plot device in any of the original Ju-On films.

Neither film has a whole lot going for it apart from the claim that they are ‘honouring’ the original films by Shimzu. They are worth a look but only as a stand alone curiosity and not as a sort of sequel or prequel of the original films. They are scary (a bit) and best watched at night.

As I am sitting here finishing this article, I have been playing the White Ghost on the telly. I have decided that the basketball playing grandma was much scarier when she was alive.

Final verdict? Don’t go out of your way to find these films, they’re not worth the effort. If you find them ‘accidentally’ like I did (live streaming on LOVEFILM) go ahead and watch them. They do have a certain novelty value. But if you want ‘real’ scares?

Watch Takashi Shimzu’s originals.

Takashi Shimizu: A Director With a Grudge

Takashi Shimizu

Takashi Shimizu is one talented guy. Not only is he a writer and director, but he is also a producer. Shimizu wears all three hats easily. His first foray into the world of cinematic horror was a short two part project to go into a film being produced by a friend. These two shorts were later incorporated into his first ‘proper’ film.

Takashi Shimizu was able to produce his first horror feature because of the popularity of his two short segments in his friends film. With a tiny budget, Shimizu’s first proper film was a “straight to video” called Juon The Curse and Juon The Curse II. Despite the lack of budget and the minimalist approach to special effects, word of mouth soon turned both these films into popular films with audiences in Japan.

With Hideo Nakata‘s The Ring (Ringu) gaining world-wide fan-dom and pretty much starting the J-Horror phenomenon, the popularity of Ringu gave Shimizu the “green-light” to start filming the first of many versions of Ju-on The Grudge.

Ju-on The Grudge is basically Ju-on The Curse with a bigger budget. With the extra money, Shimizu was able to expand the story and increase the expenditure for special effects. He also used the “ghost woman” aka “the grudge girl” who he had first used in the video versions of the film. Takako Fuji has the distinction of being the ‘Grudge Girl’ in all of the Ju-on films until Grudge 3. By the time that Hollywood had taken the reins from Shimizu after the re-make of Grudge 2, they no longer needed the original ghost.

Ju-on: The Grudge 2

*sidenote* Don’t bother watching The Grudge 3, it is execrable.

That Shimizu was able to keep coming back to the “Grudge well” repeatedly is pretty amazing. Especially considering  that right up until The Grudge 2 (Japanese) and the two American re-makes he was able to keep ‘tweaking’ the scare formula and increased the reach of the Ghost each time he re-invented it.

The selling point of all the grudge films is the fact that you don’t have to enter the house or to interact with the ghost to have it come get you. No, the curse or grudge can come calling if you just know someone who has been in the house. Pretty powerful and super scary.

My daughter and I have seen every version of the Grudge films. We have also set through several “making of’s” and listened to several cast and crew commentaries as well.

The first thing you discover is that the man who is responsible for helping to keep J-Horror on the map, loves to laugh and loves to play practical jokes. He is also the one who does the A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h sound that comes from the ghost. We also found out how much trouble he had with the studio brass when they asked him to direct the two re-makes.

Takashi Shimizu had his work cut our for him on both of the American re-makes. The Hollywood producers could not understand why he did not explain the origins of the ghost and a way to defeat it. In their parlance a ghost film had to have a beginning, a  middle and an end. It also had to give the lead protagonist a way to defeat the ghost. They also felt the audience would not be able to follow the film if there was no explanation.

Never mind that the original Grudge films had a rabid international fan-base despite having none of the requisite’s listed by the Hollywood brass. They had gone to the trouble of getting the original director to helm their Hollywood versions and they wanted him to film it their way, damnit.

Shimizu stuck to his guns though and made brilliant remakes of his classic Ju-on series. Ultimately though. he grew tired of the on going battle with the Hollywood execs. That is why on the execrable Grudge 3 (can you tell I didn’t like it?) his name is on the project as being the writer of the original series.

Shimizu has moved on from the Grudge world and continues to make scary films for the J-Horror devotees. He has lost none of his creativity or his humour. His next film, 7500  is due out later this year and Scared of the Dark is currently in preproduction now.