27 January 2016





These two films brought Japanese horror kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. You might even say that they emerged, bloody and slime-covered, from the metaphorical wombs of the directors who first conceived of them, haha. They've spawned numerous remakes and sequels and they have many imitators.

Long before I saw either of them, I was familiar (from other Japanese horror movies) with the notion of the little Japanese ghost girl in the nightdress with her long black hair covering her hanging-down face, the jerky, unnatural movements and even sometimes a kind of accompanying eerie clicking noise. I call 'em Little Grudge/Ring Girls and there's no doubt that they sell movies. Here's an example.

Last year, I went to see Irish-made film THE CANAL (2014) purely because the poster outside the cinema had one of these long-haired, face-hidden apparitions on it. I enjoyed the film immensely, but if I tell you that they had a wordless, faceless black-haired spectre climb out of a television set and kill someone, well, I hope you'll know where I'm going with that. I mean, there's no law against it or anything but we do know where they got the idea, right? Right...

I'm lumping RING and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE together because they're both films with the theme of revenge and the ghosts are two women who were horribly murdered by men and who now seek to open up a can of whup-ass on whoever's unfortunate enough to venture into their territory. See...?

Kayako in JU-ON: THE GRUDGE was killed, along with her cute little son Toshio and the family cat Mar, by her hubby Takeo. Why? Because she had feelings for another bloke. Her curse, or 'grudge,' is now visited on anyone who lives in or even enters the home where Kayako lived when she was alive. The curse even has the power to spread a little farther afield to other people connected to the people she affects initially.

The story is told in six segments, involving six separate people, and as they're not in chronological order I found them hopelessly confusing. Also, I'm afraid I didn't feel much empathy for Kayako because we're not shown her actual story at all. We're only invited in for the spooky aftermath, but as it is so confusing I wasn't even scared for much of it, only bewildered. Well, more so than usual, anyway. 

I was all like: 'So, is this happening now then or before the other thing that happened? And, if he's dead, then how can he be doing all this stuff now, then?' and so on and so forth. I like the concept but what exactly is it that Kakayo does...?

Okay, so I wouldn't like to see her crawling up my stairs on a dark night (or can she only crawl down...?), but by the time she managed it I'd have stepped over her and legged it out of the house, so there. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Kayako dear. (But please don't kill me, I'm a confirmed coward...!)

I liked RING much better. I found an old paperback copy of the novel by Koji Suzuki a couple of years ago on a second-hand book-stall and I bought it for the princely sum of one euro. I gave it to my best friend, who goes ga-ga for Japanese horror flicks, as a Christmas present. She reacted like I'd just presented her with Orlando Bloom in full Legolas regalia and a can of whipped cream. Yeah, she's a big fan of Elvis(h)...!

'You don't know what a big deal this is!' she kept saying to me. I suppose I didn't at the time, but now I most definitely do. Sadako, the ghost girl in this one, seems to be somewhat more kick-ass.
Put in a nutshell, she's a chick with psychic powers who died when she was chucked down a well and left to die by her dad, who wasn't her real dad. Her real dad was a sea-demon who'd totally done it with Sadako's mother. Remember 'Frolic in brine, goblins be thine...?' Cool, right?

Anyway, instead of her evil presence lingering on in a pile of bricks and mortar, this time it's a haunted video-tape that contains the dead chick's demonic essence. Anyone who watches it dies within seven days, after first receiving the titular ring on the phone just to confirm that fact. For years I actually thought that this film was about a piece of ladies' jewellery. Wrong. It's about the other kind of ring. Brrrrrrng, brrrrrrrng...!

To wrap up RING, it's a young news-reporter/single mother who has a whole week of worry after watching the tape, showing it to her ex-hubby and then being irresponsible enough to leave the tape lying around where her darling little boy can find it. Find it and watch it. There's the usual race-against-time as she and her ex try to figure out a way not to die from the curse. Good luck with that.

Probably my favourite scene, apart from the famously terrifying climbing-out-of-the-television one, is the one where the news reporter is down the well looking for the corpse of Sadako. She hugs the skull. Totally hugs it. Eeuw. But it's also kind of: 'Aaaaaw, that's so sad!' After all, how long had it been since anyone showed that mouldy old pile of bones the least bit of affection? Bones are people too. Or at least they were. Once...

Favourite scene from JU-ON: THE GRUDGE...? I'm going to say the Kayako-crawling-down-the-stairs scene, because she's her material self rather than a mere shadow and we get a good long look at her. The film was a success at the box-office but not in my heart. It was too disjointed. I never got a chance to really connect with any of the characters. I'm sorry but there it is.

Who would win in a fight between Kakayo and Sadako? That's easy. Kayako would win. Sadako can't see where she's going with all that long black hair covering her bleedin' boat-race. She'd fall over Kayako-On-The-Stairs and break her neck, leaving Kayako to win by default. See? Sorted...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline.

In her capacity as a performance poet, she has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers' Centre, The International Bar, Toners' Pub (Ireland's Most Literary Pub), the Ha'penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.

Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland's Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home. In 2003, she was invited to be a guest on Niall Boylan's 98FM late-night radio talk show purely on the basis of having a 'sexy voice.'

She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director's Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:


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