Ju-on: The Beginning of the End
Director: Masayuki Ochiai
Starring: Nozomi Sasaki, Sho Aoyagi, Reina Treindl, Miho Kanazawa, Haori Takahashi, Yuina Kuroshima
Travel back to the early days of the Ju-on curse when a young teacher (Sasaki) discovers that one of her new students hasn’t been coming to school and sets out to discover why. That student’s name? Toshio Saeki.
This prequel of sorts is actually the tenth installment of the Ju-on franchise, adding bits to the mythology of the series while staying true to the formula that has made Toshio and Kayako into J-Horror legends. Director Ochiai delivers a fairly formulaic entry that uses a number of similar scares and methods similar to Takashi Shimizu’s first theatrical entry in 2003. Perhaps a little too reverent of it’s pedigree, this film comes off as more of the same rather than delivering a unique film experience.
The very beautiful Nozomi Sasaki is the lead here who wants to find out why her new student Toshio has been continually absent since before her assignment to the class. She goes through much of the typical Grudge tropes but despite her best attempts, is unable to deliver any real memorable performance from her role. Her boyfriend, played by Aoyagi, fairs pretty much the same as his character finds himself caught up in the circumstances surrounding her. A handful of side-stories featuring your requisite group of Japanese schoolgirls; including Reina Treindl, Miho Kanazawa, Haori Takahashi, and Yuina Kuroshima, which vary in interest. Treindl’s character is perhaps given more than her fair share of focus though some of her associated classmates have more interesting fates played out onscreen.
As a prequel, The Beginning of the End introduces some surprisingly elements into the franchise canon, but treads too lightly; as if afraid that a misstep would tarnish the brand. While I have some great memories associated to many of the Ju-on films, the series had been on a decline for a number of years, coasting on past glory. While the yurei genre of films in Japanese film has definitely stagnated, the answer isn’t soulless and uninspired rehashes like this. It’s unfortunate that the film runs to the predictable since there are a number of infinitely more interesting ways a prequel to the series could have gone.
In the end, the film itself isn’t particularly good or bad, but delivers a blaise feeling unbefitting of horror or thrillers. It’s worth a watch if you are invested in the series, but most unfortunately won’t have much to remember after the final credits roll.