Director(s): Takeshi Shimizu
Writer(s): Stephen Susco
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea DuVall, Bill Pullman and William R. Mapother
Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on
Release Date(s)Oct 22, 2004 - Wide
The Grudge is a remake of the Japanese film Ju-On. Produced by Sam Raimi, it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Bill Pullman and Jason Behr. Takashi Shimizu who directed the original Japanese version directs the story once again. The Grudge is a supernatural horror film that takes a premise that has been seen before and rehashes it with its own twists and turns. A brutal murder takes place inside a home and the victims’ spirits haunt those that come in contact with them.
At the beginning of the film, Peter Kirk (Bill Pullman) commits suicide in front of his wife by falling off of his balcony. I’d say “jumped” but it was more of a sliding off process. We then meet Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a student living with her boyfriend Doug, played by Jason Behr.
Karen gets assigned to take care of a woman named Emma (Grace Zabriskie) who is extremely lethargic and has a touch of psychosis. The woman’s regular caregiver, Yoko, has disappeared and Karen has been given this assignment as part of her course credit for school. What Karen doesn’t know is that Yoko had been murdered when she followed a strange noise in the house that led her to the attic and, ultimately, to her demise. Karen also doesn’t know that three years before, in that very house, a man killed his wife and son in a rage. It’s not long before Karen comes face to face with the unsettled evil in the house.
She doesn’t die of course because that would go against the laws of cliched cinema. At this point, the film flashes back to when Emma’s family – her son, daughter and daughter-in-law – met their violent end.
The following is a quote from the film’s press release:
“Those who encounter this murderous supernatural curse die and a new one is born – passed like a virus from victim to victim in an endless growing chain of horror.”
That line in itself is misleading. It makes one imagine that the evil spirit inhabits new forms to continue killing. Credit should be given where credit is due: the spirits do the killing plain and simple. But again, this premise has been done over and over again in other films, but done well. The Grudge lacks imagination and, even more so, suspense. How many times must one endure the flash of the ghost’s foot walking across the screen or their refection in the mirror?
The one thing that is different about The Grudge is that both the mother and son do the haunting. In an age where family is lacking and children do not get along with their parents, it is nice to see that in a horror film family values can be brought to the table. with mother and son tag-teaming their victims. One can just imagine the conversation between the murderous spirits:
“I’ll go scare Karen, mom.”
“That’s a good boy, I’ll scare Susan. I know her office is across town and a bit of a trek, but hell, we got the rest of her family, why leave her out? High five!”
There are so many cliches in this film it could make one’s head spin. Why, oh why, does the heroine always have to become an amateur detective? Karen researches the murders on the internet, (How did people solve crimes without it? Oh the convenience!), goes to see Peter’s widow, and finally goes to the head detective and reports back all of her findings. Another cliched character is the same overly-tired detective who has been on this case from the beginning and has lost colleagues to the strange occurrences in the house and is, of course, determined to get to the bottom of things. In one scene that comes uncomfortably close to looking like The Ring (a great Japanese remake), the mother’s spirit is seen on a security surveillance video. While the detective watches this tape, the spirit comes closer and closer and closer to the screen until…well really, I was surprised that Naomi Watts didn’t jump out in protest.
The Grudge is a film that should have been left alone or at least directed by someone who wasn’t as close to the original. There is much to be said about a film that leaves the supernatural beings to the imagination of the audience. The Grudge does the opposite, overexposing the mother and son scary duo to the point of comedy. And while on the subject of overexposure, what is with the soundtrack? The haunting music is so overdone that one wonders if the filmmakers knew that this wasn’t a very good film and had to overcompensate with the audio clues. There really isn’t much to say about the acting except that the actors did well with what they were given.
The only grudge one is going to have after seeing this film is with the filmmakers.