Ju-on is a surprisingly effective low-budget horror video from Japan. While the plot never quite comes together -- it's haphazard and confusing -- the movie succeeds because of its unnervingly creepy atmosphere and consistently mournful and unsettling tone. An object lesson in bang-for-the-buck, Ju-on uses its limited means to create an overwhelming sense of dread. There are a couple of visceral shock moments, particularly a memory-searing sequence in which one unfortunate schoolgirl, Kanna (Asumi Miwa), returns home in an altered state. But for the most part, the movie works on a more subtle level, cannily using disconcerting sound effects and shadowy visuals to get under the skin. Writer/director Takashi Shimizu and cinematographer Tokusho Kikumura get the most out of digital video's natural coldness and shallow focus. From an early shot of a neighbor stopping for a quick shudder outside the aggrieved house that is the center of the movie's horrors to its use of sparse, awkward dialogue in several uncomfortable social situations, Ju-on captures an overwhelming feeling of alienation that transcends its modest ghost story trappings.