As I had guessed when I reviewed The Grudge some days back, Ju-On is infinitely creepier and infinitely less lucid. The conventions of Japanese Cinema, rather like the convention of the Noh play, are not familiar to the Western mind. As a result, things that may make perfect sense to a Japanese audience and may be perfectly clear, are less that clear here.
However, the story in the Japanese version is much, much less straightforward, and much more indirect. In fact, it seems without the structure offered by the American version to be an absolute muddle of a film. We don't know why what is happening is happening. There are subtle hints given about midway through the film, but no explicit treatment as there is in the American film. In a sense this increases greatly the disturbing influence and undercurrents of the film. That what is happening is obscure--that people meet terrible fates for no discernable reason, gives a deeper sense of chaos and darkness to the world-view.
Ju-On is instructive in that it lets us into the extremes of the modern mindset. This is nihilism spelled out. Life is meaningless and ruled by powers and influences that we don't even begin to understand and there is no hope. Those are the disturbing and pervasive elements of Ju-On and The Grudge. The good of this is that it lays bare the pernicious lie that is the subtext of so much that happens in our society--from the pathetic tragedy and blindness that surround the Terri Schiavo case, to our constant desire for longer life distilled from death. A film like this one, while no masterpiece, makes clear what we live out, and the wise amongst us fight against, in our modern absurdist/nihilist world.