There are a few Japanese horror movies that quite caught my attention over the years and I can state here the Ring, Chakushi Ari and the Ju-On franchises. All of them concentrate of elements of an atmospheric horror genre combined with graphically unnerving scenes for a better effect on the public.
And today I will discuss the first two short movies that helped Ju-On gain popularity and spawned other theatrical releases, video-games, collectibles and other merchandise.
These are Katasumi and 4444444444.
The first two films in the series were so-called V-Cinema, or direct-to-video releases, but became surprise hits as the result of favorable word of mouth. Both films were shot in nine days and feature a story that is a variation on the classic haunted house theme, as well as a popular Japanese horror trope, the “vengeful ghost” (onryō). The titular curse, ju-on, is one which takes on a life of its own and seeks new victims. Anyone who encounters a ghost killed by the curse is killed themselves and the curse is able to be spread to other areas.
Under very tight budgetary constraints, Takashi Shimizu’s films garnered much acclaim from both critics and genre fans for their effective use of limited locations and eerie atmosphere to generate chills.
On a day off – in the back of a schoolyard – two schoolgirls are feeding rabbits. They are presented as Kanna and Hisayo. Stereotypical, standard situation in which one of them is involved in the tasks and the other one brags about this responsibility. At a certain point – Kanna cuts one of her fingers and Hisayo is going to get a bandage. At her return she discovers that the rabbits are dead and the cages torn apart- and her classmate is nowhere to be found.
After this scene we firstly assist to the appearance of Kayako – depicted as a female crawling ghost – making absurd sounds that inspire terror.
Apparently Kayako brought Kanna’s demise and since the movie ends with the villain approaching Hisayo – the end of it is left open to interpretations.
Probably even scarier than the first movie – 4444444444 – bring unto the screen the ghost of Kayako’s son – Toshio. A young man happens to find a ringing phone near what seems to be an abandoned building. The number calling is displayed as 10 fours – 4 having bad connotations in some of the Asian cultures. After picking up – he only hears some strange sounds resembling a cat’s cry. Soon after that – he asks if the unknown caller has access to a point in which he can see him. An answer comes.. along with the appearance of Toshio.
So the first two short movies set access to a longer and more elaborate story – and the director, in an interview said that the film that came after these two shorts was based on several short scripts as well. Currently there are 14 films released and the 15th is in production – expected to be released in 2019. I plan to watch them all, some of them re-watch and structure them into another posts.