Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Written by: Takashi Shimizu (original Ju-on film) and Stephen Susco (screenplay)
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr and KaDee Strickland
Reviewed by: Josh G.
After the 2002 film The Ring, a remake of the foreign 1998 Japanese movie Ringu, PG-13 horrors suddenly became a trend, much like the many different types of ideas that spawned before through a successful box office. Director Takashi Shimizu had made somewhat of a name for himself with his film Ju-on, and its sequels, Ju-on 2, Ju-on: The Grudge (aka, Ju-on 3) and Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (aka, Ju-on 4). Before pursuing the fifth entry, Iím supposing he noticed the hype over The Ring, and thought perhaps that his films could also be adapted for America. From there, he remade his own film, now known as simply The Grudge. It went on to gross over $100, 000, 000, and everybody was talking about it, with both good and bad thoughts. Does the hype match the cause?
In Tokyo, a man named Peter (Bill Pullman) deliberately falls off his apartment balcony, dying. Later, a nurse named Yoko (Yoko Maki), who is taking care of elderly Emma Williams (Grace Zabriskie) is killed in the Williamsí house by a supernatural force in the attic. The next day, Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is called in to take care of Emma, as Yoko has not shown up. Karen is an exchange student, who needs her social welfare credit, living with boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr). But just like the few before her, Karen will find out that true evil lives in the home of a guilty past. Davis hears a cat meowing behind a taped up closet, but when she opens it up, a little boy named Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) is found as well. When Karen returns downstairs, she finds Emma in a frightened state. The two are soon visited by a long dark haired woman, killing Emma subtly. The past is now being told to us about a family of three, three years ago, and about the Williams who moved in fairly recently. There is a grudge in this house that haunts the people who enter it, and the Japanese say that it comes from someone who dies in a terrible fit of rage. Itís up to Karen to figure out the mystery of this spooky phenomenon, all while trying to stay alive herself!
I remember seeing previews for this film on television in 2004, and due to me being fairly new to the horror genre, I was excited immediately because of the eerie elements. The Japanese woman with long black hair, pale-blue skin tone and a creepy crawl caught my attention. It looked similar to that of Samara in The Ring. The Grudge appeared creative, and at the time, I had no idea that four films of it were made before. The Japanese boy mentioned above was also featured, holding on to the stair railings, and once, opening his mouth widely to release the cry of a cat. I wasnít scared, but I was automatically fascinated! Sarah Michelle Gellar of my childhood forbidden fruit, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, starred in the lead, which was the final stroke of the hairbrush that got me nearly hooked. Looking back, I feel like laughing at myself. Today, the woman looks far from panic inducing, and the meowing boy is just ridiculous. Sam Raimi produced this film, but I fail to see why such a person with a great background in movies could be connected to...well...this.
The house in which Karen visits is nice and peaceful when it wants to be, and in darker areas, casts a gray cloud over the light. There is a little bit of blood and spots, but overall, we have a tame ghost/haunting flick. Donít show it to five year olds though. The acting is stronger as the picture moves along, but we never start on a strong note. Clichť is the term used here. It feels like youíre watching a horror movie, instead of living in it. You canít get caught up in the story because they only reveal bits at a time. It all makes sense in the end, but the whole reason for the grudge in the first place is a little weak. Takeo Saeki (Takashi Matsuyama, reprising his role from Ju-on) finds out his wife Kayako (Takako Fuji, also returning) has cheated on him, and ends up cutting a hole in all of his pictures with her face in them. Faceless images arenít that happy, I can tell you that. And Toshio, their son, is still nearby, acting weird for no real reason. Once a manís hand is grabbed by the long-haired lady with a grudge in a bathtub, never reporting the events to his buddies, the whole film feels silly and unintentionally funny.
The pacing for The Grudge is fine, but you donít really care about what is going on, which makes room for boredom. For saving grace, there are some well done scenes and scenarios. Susan Williams (KaDee Strickland) is about to leave her work place at the office building when sheís freaked out by a sound that the evil lady is making; a trademark sound that would be used for many The Grudge references and jokes to come. She runs away and out a door, but the grudging lady has caught her furry white keychain with her hand, and wonít let it go. Susan loses the battle and returns home. Locking the door, she crawls into bed...where the furry white keychain is lying beside her! This scene, like so many others, should have been a movie highlight for all the strong reasons. Instead, itís humourous and embarrassing. Jump scares are at least put to a minimum, relying on imagery and ideas to filter through. Too bad the entire film is just a bunch of good ideas compacted together to create a mess.
One of the scenes that really sticks out is the infamous fisting head in the shower shot. Itís not quite what you may be thinking, because for those who donít know, itís literally a fist coming out of the head. This was spoofed in Scary Movie 4, made its way into the trailer, and is weird as hell! Sarah Michelle Gellar feels something in the back of her head, but she would never guess that itís the evil spirit punching through her. There is an investigation going on covering the weird developments at the house, and soon Detective Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) joins the curse. He looks through the surveillance tapes where Susan was working, and he sees a dark figure appear and close in on the camera, exposing its white round eyes. Is the spirit watching Nakagawa? Who knows? Why does it matter? Anybody who comes into contact with the evil is usually, unless under certain circumstances, wiped off the earth, so thereís just as much reason to believe that the creepy crawler is keeping an eye out opposed to not. Unlike many other haunted house horrors, this one lets you leave its property, because even if you were to fly over to Jamaica for the week, the ghost is still going to get you.
Blood! Blood! Blood! In The Grudge, itís left to the imagination to be gruesome. When it is shown, thereís a reason for it. Detectives find a jaw on the floor of the attic, not knowing who it belongs to. When the victimís body walks around like a zombie, we see that she no longer has any bone structure below her top teeth. But like everything else, itís partially funny. We follow the story about the previous families for long enough to enjoy a short story, and then the finale shows up and quickly ends the fireworks. At this point, weíre all shocked that this stodgy show was made (or remade, in this case) and that it made so much money. The DVD includes trailers for Boogeyman, The Forgotten, Guess Who and Hitch. A cast and crew commentary, a featurette, and a making-of documentary travels along with a great presentation for this pathetic excuse of a horror movie. Mind numbing shit like this has no place for itself, except for premature burial. The only true curse about The Grudge is that it has robbed viewers of their money, and may forever plague Takashi Shimizu into remaking the same film over and over again. The real torturous thought is that so many good ideas were wasted when they were fused into the story. ďIt never forgives. It never forgets.Ē Iíll never forgive, and sadly, may never forget. Trash it!
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