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BOOK REVIEW - JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (DEVIL’S ADVOCATES)
Written by Marisa Hayes. RRP: £9.99. 102p Out now from Auteur publishing.
At roughly a hundred pages each, it may appear that the various volumes within the ‘Devils Advocates’ (DA) range have their work cut out. After all, attempting to give background and in-depth analysis to already well-known and researched titles in such little space is hardly an easy task. So it’s something of a pleasant surprise when, by the end of the first paragraph of Marissa Hayes study of JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002), I’ve already learnt something. Opening her volume Hayes states; ‘It is the third film in the franchise but the first created for cinematic release. It is not a remake of the previous direct to video instalments’. Now I will confess to my knowledge of J-Horror being somewhat less than films from other countries (though I have seen several of the JU-ON entries and the title film many times) but this was news to me. Imagine my surprise when a few pages later, I discover that even these direct to video features were not the first JU-ON products, with several television segments being the origin point. This gives some level of the detail to which Hayes goes into and what results is a highly entertaining and informative examination of one of J-Horror’s all time masterpieces. This title is somewhat different to others within the DA series, as it features in-depth discussions and breakdowns of every film in the franchise, including the American remakes. The fact that Hayes manages to cram this all in, informing this reader of many entries of which I was not aware (including discussions of online promotional material for the American THE GRUDGE 2), along with enticing analytical discussion, shows her incredible ability as a writer.
One thing that all of the DA books have had in common is the love their respective authors have for their chosen subjects and it’s no different here. Hayes is obviously a fan and even when discussing some of the lesser entries, she manages to find at least some point of interest. Indeed the American reboot is, under Hayes skilful analysing, interpreted as a worthy experiment by director Shimizu, rather than a straightforward rehash. Clearly Hayes admires Shimizu, evidenced by the fact that the only entries she appears less than enamoured with are those not directed by him (particularly the reboot JU-ON: THE BEGINNING OF THE END and the American THE GRUDGE 3) though even here she finds points of interest and is not dismissive. Hayes enthusiasm leaps off the page and is so enthralling, that it’s even made me want to revisit SADAKO VS KAYAKO (2016), a film which I was hardly enamoured with.
Of course the majority of the discussion is centred on JU-ON: THE GRUDGE. Here Hayes examines the context in which the film was made, the cultural links and building blocks upon which JU-ON was built, earlier films which inspired it and the various symbolic meanings littered throughout. At times I believe this discussion can get a little off topic, for example at one point Hayes links the epidemic like portrayal of Kayako’s curse to a viral outbreak that was occurring in Japan and the surrounding areas at the time. This begins as a completely convincing and well-made argument, followed by a brief paragraph stating that at the time there was also economic crisis referred to as a ‘financial contagion’. This point is picked up a little later but here it seems irrelevant and hardly linked, however this is nit-picking at an issue that cannot damage what is on the whole an excellently structured study.
Marisa Hayes study really is an astounding piece of work. As someone somewhat unfamiliar with the franchise it’s made me want to revisit not only JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, but to track down the various other instalments as well. If you’re a fan of the series then this is a must buy, if like me you’ve seen a couple of entries but are interested in finding out more it’s a perfect starting point. Another excellent entry in a series which is finding itself at the forefront of academic studies of horror.
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