Directed by Shimizu Takashi, starring Okina Megumi, Ito Misaki, Ichikawa Yui, Ozeki Yuya, Fuji Takako, Matsuda Shuri, Tsuda Kanji.

You could say that the title of this film refers to Takashi's dogged refusal to let a good idea go to waste. Having first made 'Ju On' (meaning the grudge) for Japanese television, Takashi then made an extended version, which he rather misleadingly titled 'Ju On 2'.

Dissatisfied by the passage of this 'sequel' straight to video, Takashi then made it a third time as this feature film, titled 'The Grudge'. Moreover, a Hollywood remake of this version, also to be called 'The Grudge' and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is in post-production.

The story of all of these films concerns a ju on or contagious curse born of a grudge held by someone who dies in the grip of rage.

Volunteer worker Nishina Rika (Megumi) calls to the home of an elderly patient,  only to find her in shock. She goes upstairs and, finding to her surprise a small boy and a black cat in a drawer, comes back downstairs to see the woman engulfed by a black shadow. The film cuts back in time to find the woman's son Katsuya (Kanji) arriving home from work to see his wife Kazumi (Shuri) in a catatonic state. Katsuya turns to see the small boy in the room.

The ju on has got them both, and then passes on to Katsuya's sister Hitomi (Misaki) when she arrives at the house. Meanwhile, police investigators begin to discover bodies, and realise a retired detective may be the only one who can solve the mystery of the curse.

So far, so intriguing. Takashi makes inventive use of a limited budget, employing lighting, close camera work and sound to particularly good effect. Within the movie's small setting, Takashi frequently uses panning to reveal what menaces the characters from dark corners.

Except that, for the most part, this film just isn't scary. Western audiences desensitised to far more freakish screen presences will find it quite difficult to be very afraid of a small Japanese boy with white face paint, no matter how menacing he might seem to his victims. 

Takashi's Gellar-led version of 'The Grudge' is set for a Halloween release in the US, and will presumably arrive here around the same time. One can only hope he will use the bigger budget to ratchet up the terror, as what's on offer here is less terrifying than your average trick or treat costume.

Bill Lehane