creator. Takashige Ichise
2020 was a good year for the Ju-On franchise, with the latest edition of the American retelling hitting cinemas and a brand new series, Ju-On: Origins, sliding onto Netflix. The six-part miniseries is a story within a story, said to be the real-life inspiration for the horrible events in the long-running cinematic universe.
At its centre is the cursed house we know and love, and over a nine-year period we follow the lives of those living there and those who are affected by the curse the house passes on. Starting in 1988, paranormal investigator Yasuo Odajima (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) first discovers the strange goings-on when actress Haruka Honjo (Yuina Kuroshima) appears on a talk show complaining of supernatural activity in her home. Yasuo speaks to Haruka’s boyfriend Tetsuya (Kai Inowaki) and soon figures out it’s him being haunted rather than Haruka’s apartment, with Tetsuya claiming a visit to an empty house he was looking to buy is to blame.
Yasuo and Haruka team up in order to try and figure out what’s happening with this house and why there have been multiple brutal deaths there over the years, with no apparent link between them.
We also follow Kiyomi (Ririka), a young girl moving to a new school and trying to make friends, who is lured to the cursed house and sees her life completely changed over the course of one afternoon.
While the curse doesn’t kill everyone who sets foot in the house, it does follow most of them around, waiting for the perfect time to strike and ruin as many lives as possible. It’s also clever about those it chooses to let live, making sure to keep them involved in providing the house with new victims so they continue to be part of the process.
Origins is a little less scary – and a little more gory – than one might expect from a supernatural horror, seemingly saving the most frightful imagery for the sixth and final episode. But instead of the jump scares and sudden shocks we’re more used to here the emphasis is on building tension and keeping audience eyes fixed on the background.
There are also a couple of tough scenes involving babies or pregnant women. Ghost stories don’t often have a lot of blood, gore and grotesquery, so these additions help Origins stand out: however it may not be what the traditional fans are looking for, and could be triggering for some.
Overall, there’s a lot packed into the six 30-minute episodes, and – with multiple storylines, characters, and time periods to follow – it can be confusing. The past events of the house are referred to frequently, and while we get more than a few timeline jumps the narrative could have benefited from further exploration of these past stories in order to get a fuller history. Likewise the series perhaps needed a couple more episodes: we follow so many characters that some story arc conclusions are a little lacking, and perhaps needed more time to fully breathe.
For fans of the Ju-On franchise, Origins adds something different: however with so many other amazing horror series out there the final result falls a little flat, lacking the scares that audiences have come to expect.
Looking for more J-Horror content? Check out our pod episode on J-Horror and Ring (1998) where we sit down with Dan Martin (effects artist for Possessor, Censor and Lords of Chaos) and Jed Shepherd (co-writer Host and Dashcam).