It has come to my attention that there is some confusion surrounding not just the plots of the Japanese Ju-On: The Grudge theatrical movies, but which movie one is watching or discussing at any given time. Ignoring the American remakes, there have been Ju-On (2002), Ju-On 2 (2003),  Ju-On: Shiroi Rojo (translates as The Grudge: Old Lady in White), and Ju-On: Kuroi shojo (The Grudge: Girl in Black Dress).

But as the Count Von Count used to say, wait! There’s more… The series began, at least in on-screen form, as two shot-on-video TV movies called Ju-On The Curse and Ju-On The Curse 2, which have been edited for DVD into one movie called Ju-On:The Prequel because The Curse 2 contained a long recap of the first one.

If you like horror movies that leave you with a bad feeling, rather than a laughable gore-fest, this is one you should definitely pick up. The movie manipulates your mind to imagine what happens to the victims for the most part. And we all know that what you can imagine is always far worse than anything you actually see.

I’m not going to attempt a synopsis because the story has too many characters and is told out of sequence. If Kayako (the mother) or Toshio (the little boy) is after your ass, they ARE going to get you. And they won’t just kill people who have been to their house, oh no. They can kill people who live in an apartment where someone once lived who had been to their house. They can kill you if you make a phone call on a cursed cell phone they leave for you to randomly find. Kayako can drive you insane, stop your heart or possess you. And in this version, Toshio tears his victims to pieces. And you thought Mama was the big bad guy!

Some of the better scenes actually take place in schools rather than at the cursed house. There is something so effective in most horror movies about using a school, nearly empty, after hours. Maybe it is because of all the dread students feel at having to go to school is concentrated in the building.

The only thing I still don’t understand is this: did the teacher have an affair with Kayako or was it just her fantasies in her diary that caused her husband to kill her? One thing that stands out in this film is that the teacher in question is Toshio’s teacher who goes looking for him at the house after Toshio has been absent. Before he goes to his fate, the first scene of the movie involves a discussion between said teacher and his very pregnant wife about the fact that the student he has missed at school is the child of a girl (Kayako) they knew in college who they found very unsettling back in college. This does point to evidence that the affair only took place in Kayako’s head.

Shamefully, I admit I had only seen the American version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar before I found Ju-On: The Prequel, so I’m about to watch the first Japanese Grudge theatrical movie right now. But be thinking about this: The Freddy and Jason of the 21st century, the two most prolific killer movie ghosts of our time, are Japanese women: Sadako (The Ring) and Kayako. So if somebody made a movie called Sadako vs Kayako: The Bitches Are Back (you can probably think of a far cleverer tagline), who would win in a fight between those two?