A tepid opener, Ju-On: Origins episode 1 doesn’t make the best first impression, being heavy on setup but light on scares.
This recap of Ju-On: Origins season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
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Ju-On: Origins episode 1 has its work cut out for it. In just thirty minutes, it has to justify a small-screen expansion of the long-running and cripplingly overinflated mythology that at this point has spanned so many reboots and revivals that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it really is, when you boil it down to its essential elements, a pretty bog-standard haunted house story. And in that half-hour, this premiere episode also has to prove this latest version can be scary, fresh-feeling, interesting, and engaging, and unfortunately, it’s rarely any of those things.
It also has to lay out its table: We’re told early on that the events we’re witnessing are ostensibly true, although the horror genre and the truth have the kind of abusive relationship that these stories of brutal trauma and tragedy burn for fuel. We also quickly meet paranormal investigator Yasuo and are introduced to the spooky house at the center of this series, both of which are crucial links in the causal chain that connects each episode to the next.
We’re also introduced to student Kiyomi, a new kid from a broken, abusive home, as well as Haruka and Tetsuya; the latter is in a privileged position in that he’s the only character who gets to face off with a croaky ghost in Ju-On: Origins episode 1, though he’s saved from the dirty feet of this specter by Haruka. This is the only extended “scary” sequence in an episode that could have used more, but then again, the show is clearly interested in a more human variety of horror.
Case in point: The cliffhanger ending sees Kiyomi enter the cursed house with a group of fellow students, who promptly reveal the excursion to be a betrayal. She’s dragged to the ground and pinned there for the pleasures of Yudai, which is where Ju-On: Origins season 1, episode 1 ends, promising horrendous things to come.
It’s a promise that’ll be kept; this otherwise light setup, though, doesn’t make a strong first impression, suggesting that in its exploration of human evil the show will skimp on its supernatural menaces. Mileage will, of course, vary here, since what everyone is looking for from this genre tends to be different. But a Ju-On story without a certain amount of eerie croaking and snap-crackle-pop joints just doesn’t feel very much like a Ju-On story, you know?