The Grudge

Japanese director Takashi Shimizu has the opportunity of a lifetime with The Grudge. He gets to remake his movie Ju-On: The Grudge. This allows him to fix anything he thought he did wrong, or do better things he thought he did right. The Grudge follows directly in the tradition of other Japanese horror films like The Ring, where horror means bone-chillingly creepy films instead of lots of blood and gore. The story is extremely flimsy (as it was in the original). When somebody dies in 'the grip' of a rage, a spirit is left behind. This spirit will take out its frustration on anybody it comes in contact with. In The Grudge, something happened in a house in Japan, and everybody that enters it has a habit of dying.

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scooby-Doo 2, Scooby-Doo) is living in Japan with her boyfriend (Jason Behr, The Shipping News, Rites of Passage). She volunteers at a health clinic, and is assigned to take care of Emma Williams (Grace Zabriskie, R.S.V.P., Gone in Sixty Seconds), an elderly patient suffering from dementia. While in the house, Karen gets a really bad feeling, and sees some horrific things. She later wakes up in a hospital. The Grudge then jumps back and forth in time, showing how this malevolent spirit makes its way through everybody who entered the house.

Stephen Susco, who adapted Shimizu's script, takes every horror cliche imaginable and throws it into the story. The difference is that to a degree, it works here. Shimizu paces things extremely slowly, building a level of tension that stays relatively high. Small things are amplified, and characters are on edge for most of the film. Everything is remarkably creepy, and Shimizu knows that less is more. The problem is the story structure. The narrative is choppy, and the premise is essentially an excuse to kill off a bunch of marginally related people. Because Shimizu introduces people then kills them off, it is hard to feel a sense of continuity. The Grudge is more like a bunch of interrelated short films playing together.

Gellar is okay, but like everybody else, her role is to react, not to act. Everybody takes a passive position relative to the house. She is definitely not in Buffy mode. The lack of characterization on all counts detracts from making this a better film, and jumping around in a non-linear fashion does not add a thing, and will most likely confuse people. However, Shimizu (Ju-On: The Grudge, Tomie: Rebirth) is not concerned with this. He wants to scare people, and this works. Even scarier is that this is a remake of a Japanese film which was both the third film in a series (of four) and a remake itself of the first film in the series. Confused? That's how some will feel at the end of The Grudge.

And how does Shimizu do against himself? It's pretty much about the same. The script is extremely similar, and the house looks exactly the same. Compared to Ju-On, this does seem more 'Americanized.' He removed some other characters whose inclusion would probably assure confusion. Unfortunately, this means that some of the scarier moments of the original are now missing. He also made the story tighter, so that everything wraps up a little neater and clearer than it did before. It was a great idea to keep things in Japan. It brings a sense of additional helplessness to the cast. Many of the people associated with the house are American. They cannot speak Japanese well, and have an increased sense of alienation. So they must decide whether all these things they are hearing are real or imagined. In the end, the same things that worked and didn't work for Ju-On: The Grudge work and do not work here. Next up is a remake of The Eye, a horror film from Thailand.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.

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