Japan’s latest chapters to its “Ju-on” franchise are only an hour each, but their brevity is your gain for their stateside DVD release, as Well Go USA pairs them as a seamless double feature in “Ju-On: White Ghost / Black Ghost.” While exposure to the previous “Ju-on” films — or their American “Grudge” remakes — is not required, it will enhance your enjoyment.
The Christmas-set “White Ghost” is first up, with a new family moving into the house where the original film’s massacre occurred, and one new resident quickly proves not immune to its curse. But we only meet them after meeting a cake delivery man, an eager cabbie and his schoolgirl daughter. Oh, and the grandma ghost carrying a basketball. You’ll never forget her.
Taking up the back half of the cobbled-together feature is “Black Ghost,” which opens with a young man mocking said house, now blocked off with crime-scene tape. He’s a little lovesick for his neighbor, a nurse at a rather shabby hospital where she tends to a little girl with a conjoined twin, and copes with the eventual ghost — this one in blackface, so to speak.
With both films — with all “Ju-on” films, really — the timeline is fractured, as if the unbound script was thrown into the air and then shot in the order in which the pages were picked up from the floor. This is not a complaint, as part of the fun is trying to figure out how the narrative puzzle all fits together before we’re shown.
And how do they work as fright films? Very well, as long as you’re into J-horror and not expecting a groundbreaker. As always, this haunted-house series is all about its spirited residents and their now-iconic trademarks, from their tentacle-esque hair with a mind of its own to that damned creaky-door guttural growl they emit. Gore is not as important as an overall spooky mood, which these more than establish.
No matter the hemisphere, this franchise refuses to die — the U.S. unleashed “The Grudge 3″ straight to DVD recently, and now Japan responds with this fine, tasty, two-course meal. Another helping, please? —Rod Lott