A social worker is sent to a house where a murder was once committed, and finds an old lady apparently abandoned by her family. She also encounters two melancholy but dangerous ghost children, who proceed to persecute a loosely-connected string of folks.
The third film in a saga that had already managed two straight-to-video instalments, Takeshi Shimizu's Ju-On: The Grudge became a breakthrough Japanese hit, inspiring a fourth entry confusingly titled The Grudge 2 and a forthcoming Sam Raimi-produced remake that also counts as a fifth film in the ongoing saga.
Because the haunting is passed along like a dose of the flu, the film skips La Ronde-style (or at least, in the Amicus anthology tradition) from one episode to the next (darting back and forth in time), as the ghost children pick on a social worker, a cop, a schoolgirl and others. Not only does the random curse aspect echo The Ring but many other elements - a lank-haired female ghost, obviously - follow that influential cycle. Expect a Freddy Vs. Jason-type Sadako vs. Kayako team-up sequel somewhere down the line.
Shimizu obviously saw how effective the ghost-crawling-from-the-TV scene in The Ring was, since The Grudge is constructed entirely around similarly ingenious bone-freezing scares as genuinely terrifying spooks appear under the sheets, crawl crablike down stairs, perch on beds, or otherwise go "boo!"
As a film, it is at once too much a part of an overarching story and divided into too many episodes to be all of a piece. However, as a sustained collection of scare moments, it's a winner.