The Japanese horror franchise JU-ON has gone through various forms in the last two decades. The franchise has delivered short films, American remakes titled The Grudge, and crossovers with the Ringu franchise.
The original Japanese film is also one of the best horror movies involving ghosts.
The new series from Netflix, JU-ON: Origins, tries to find a fresh voice for the beloved franchise — for better or worse.
And it will be kind of like taking over-the-counter medicine from a drug store. Simply put, results may vary with this new approach on a legendary property.
But with the series only being six episodes at 30 minutes each, is it worth a binge? Here is our full review of the Netflix series JU-ON: Origins.
JU-ON: Origins review: Is the Netflix series based on The Grudge worth streaming?
Without giving too much away, the story is very similar to the JU-ON films. A group of characters visits a house shrouded in cryptic secrets and curses that hurt people in various ways.
What is essential to know before clicking play is the haunts are nothing like the film. Do not expect the iconic death rattle that still haunts most of us. Do not expect the same scares or to be terrified in general.
It’s more of a haunting slow-burn series than a terrifying one.
For many, this will be jarring in the same way Halloween III: Season of the Witch was jarring after the first two iconic films. Most of the fanbase will probably expect certain things going in, and this series has no interest in playing by those rules.
JU-ON: Origins is also more aggressive on the violence than scares. Where JU-ON: The Grudge built dread and constantly placed viewers in a state of insecurity, Origins leans more into brutality and gross-out violence than some might expect.
For example, if seeing a person release their bowels upon death isn’t a viewer’s idea of a fun time, maybe sit this one out.
Adding to this, by far, one of the most significant issues with JU-ON: Origins is that the show uses extremely cruel storytelling. Horror can be cruel as a genre, but most of the time, it serves a purpose to the overall narrative and experience.
For example, Michael Myers is an extremely cruel villain, but it fits because viewers are supposed to be terrified of his unstoppable nature.
That said, situations in JU-ON: Origins feels pointlessly cruel to a fault. Early on, someone gets raped, and it’s not abundantly clear why this happened or the motivations behind it — or whether the house made the culprits initiate the act.
Another scene involves the sounds of a child being aggressively and violently beaten — only to find out moments later, the child is dead.
Again, it did not seem to serve any purpose except to shock and could’ve been implied differently in less triggering ways.
And this is important for viewers to understand before diving into the series. Netflix viewers who have suffered violence or sexual assault should be warned because this could be hard on victims with past trauma.
On a positive note, the show has some good qualities. It’s a great-looking series, and every frame creates suspense. Looking through cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya’s work, nothing seems familiar, but his camera work here is quite effective.
The performances across the board are also quite good. Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, who plays Yasuo Odajima — the investigative psychic researcher looking into the connected hauntings — is a soft endearing presence in a very dark show.
The show could be so much greater if approached as a procedural strictly focusing on his investigations.
Ririka is also great in her role as Kiyomi. The series puts her character through absolute hell, and she completely sells the role of an emotionally damaged victim.
It’s just a shame the writers did not have a less callous approach to her journey.
JU-ON: Origins possesses some good qualities in performances as well as suspense. Tonally, it’s more aligned with creepy Japanese horror films like Pulse rather than the original JU-ON film.
It’s not the strongest fresh start for the JU-ON franchise, but there is room for improvement. Much like the television series LOST, it feels bogged down by mysteries that the writers want to build-up rather than tell something narratively satisfying.
However, it is the first season, and the trajectory may lead somewhere worth the investment.
JU-ON: Origins is a violent, dark, and excessively cruel beginning for the series. The six-episode offering makes for a quick binge over the weekend, but the results may be triggering for some viewers.
Netflix viewers who like their horror with gore might have fun with this one. The rest might find the first entry of Origins a hard pill to swallow.
JU-ON: Origins is now streaming on Netflix.
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