Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.
Secret ending? No.
Running time: 91 minutes (~1.5 hours)
“Ju-On 4: The Final Curse” is the last film in the “Ju-On” franchise, although we all know that we can expect to see another “Ju-On” film if this one does well. It follows the events of the previous movie, “Ju-On: Beginning of the End,” as the sister of a missing schoolteacher tries to uncover the circumstances of her sister’s disappearance. It stars Airi Taira (Mai Shono), Renn Kiriyama (Sota Kitamura), Nonoka Ono (Reo), Misaki Saisho (Kayako Saeki), Kai Kobayashi (Toshio Saeki), and Nozomi Sasaki (Yui Shono).
“Ju-On 4: The Final Curse” is a tad disappointing as it doesn’t quite live up to the scare levels of precious films. Taken in isolation, it’s a much better horror movie than many others that have come out this year, by virtue of the fact that it takes the Asian mentality to horror films and brings it to the personal, everyday experiences that we encounter. Ultimately, if it generates the scares that affect us long after we go home and rest in privacy, then it has done its job to make unsettled and unsure. But that requires making us uneasy rather than shocking us, which is not what this film does.
Mai (Airi Taira). (Encore Films)
Reo is a compelling Everyman
The thing about Reo is that she reacts to the haunting in the same way any of us would. We see the slow degradation of her character, and that resonates with is because if we were in her same position, we wouldn’t reach much differently. She’s an accessible and relatable character by dint of her circumstances, and her descent into the horror of what Toshio’s haunting entails makes her the truest and most realistic character of the film. Without this personal connection with the audience, the film wouldn’t have affected us as much as it did.
More perspectives of Toshio
One aspect that the movie improved on is giving us the different ways that Toshio is seen. Rather than limiting his horror elements to his victims, we see the repercussions of his anger on a far more varied cast of characters. The movie already does an impressive job of letting Toshio into the most vulnerable part of our lives, but by showing us multiple perspectives of his hauntings, it amplifies the magnitude of his actions. Which, in this case, translates to more deaths.
Sense of backstory and an existing world
Because this film serves as a sequel to the rebooted continuity of the precious movie, it takes great pains to establish the validity and consequences of the events of “Ju-On 3: Beginning of the End.” It builds on the story that was developed in that film, and gives us the logical conclusion of said storylines. It gives us the impression that Toshio’s haunting didn’t happen in isolation, but is actually a widespread phenomenon that has terrorised many families offscreen.
Sota (Renn Kiriyama) is being followed. (Encore Films)
Scares are one note
Unfortunately, there’s not much tension or suspense in this film, because all scenes of terror are paid off within two minutes of their establishment. The key thing about horror films is that you never know if a haunting is legitimate or due to your suspicions of the circumstances. But here, every single scare is due to Toshio’s machinations, eliminating any sense of doubt and uncertainty of the point of view of the characters. It’s invariably due to Toshio and Kayako, with no other interpretations left to consider.
Scares are not subtle
The frights also generally fall into the same category, which is a surprising and unexpected image of the ghost appearing. A broader variety in scare technicians would have made the film less predictable and increased the scare factor for audiences. But in this case, when every unexplained event is due to Toshio or Kayako, it gets stale and tripe after the first Act.
Scares are over the top
When it comes horror, as mentioned earlier it’s more effective to rely on multiple effects rather than the same shocking scare each time. We should applaud effort at making every scare in the movie as big, loud and horrifying as possible. But ghosts start appearing in the most ludicrous of places, like a bowl of soup, it gets cartoony.
Black burn effect is badly done
This is unforgivable. It’s clear that not enough effort was put into achieving a standard, presentable special effect. A strong story link is made regarding the burn effect that afflicts many of the victims, but the actual execution is not believable in any way. This, in turn, reduces the effect of this scare technique. Why do it in the first place then?
Mai’s haunting. (Encore Films)
Taken in isolation, “Ju-On 4: The Final Curse” is a pretty decent horror film. But when compared to previous installments in the franchise, it’s a disappointing entry for the “Ju-On” series of films.
Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.
Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.
“Ju-On 4: The Final Curse” opens in cinemas 9 July, 2015 (Thursday).