The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

The Grudge (2004)
Director: Takashi Shimizu

review by Michael Bunning

When a person is killed in the grip of powerful emotions, the place where they were killed becomes haunted by 'Ju-On', a supernatural curse. The curse haunts anyone who passes the threshold.

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a student nurse who is living in Japan with her architecture student boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr). Karen is assigned to help care for an American woman with severe psychological problems when Yoko, the carer who normally looks after her goes missing. This being Karen's first solo assignment, it's obvious from the beginning she's not going to have a nice time. Unfortunately, neither are the audience.

The Grudge is the third time Shimizu has remade his original TV movie, and it's difficult to see why he bothered with the latest version. The story is vastly simplified, the script is undistinguished at best, the acting is uniformly dire (even the normally-capable Bill Pullman seems to be sleepwalking through his part) and the direction, though occasionally tense, is largely plodding and uninspired. The film seems designed to appeal solely to those 15-year-olds who refuse to watch a movie with subtitles or without at least a couple attractive Hollywood faces on-screen.

The 'scares' are signposted in advance and all-too obvious (why, it's a spooky trapdoor leading to an attic. There are strange noises coming from the attic. I think I'll just stick my head up there to check what's going on...); the CG effects only just manage to look average, though thankfully they are rarely used; and the same set-pieces are used over and over again.

The movie has a couple of small redeeming features, the most effective of which is the way it uses flashbacks to deliver the backstory, but overall the plot is confused (the grudge targets people seemingly at random, ignoring the police officers who have been in the house several times, whilst aggressively targeting people who have only been in the house once, for about ten seconds) and the characters are one-dimensional ghost-fodder.

Most of the moments that are supposed to scare you revolve around Toshio, the ghost of a little boy who inexplicably (or perhaps I was just so bored I missed the reason) meows like a cat when he's not just croaking wordlessly. Unfortunately for this movie, the 'scary child' device was done a million times better in Dark Water, and this boy doesn't even come close to that film's terrifying youngster (and the film certainly contains none of the tragedy and horror Dark Water is bursting at the seams with).

I've heard this movie described as 'a straight shocker, with no frills', but the truth is that whilst there are a couple of moments which could make you jump, the film would have been much improved by some frills such as acting, a decent story, and an ending that wasn't clearly there because the filmmakers had either become bored or simply incapable of actually coming up with anything interesting.

The most entertaining thing about this movie for me was the teenage girl who was sat behind me, whispering "Oh no! They're going back into the house! Don't go back in there!" whenever anyone went anywhere but the house in question. I believe she enjoyed the film, but as she couldn't tell a two-storey suburban house from a 30-storey apartment block, I'm not sure that's a particularly good recommendation.


The Grudge (2004)
Director: Takashi Shimizu

review by Alasdair Stuart

A terrible event scars a Tokyo house and all those that come into contact with it forever. Less a remake more a sequel of sorts to the original, this is a structurally very clever but strangely un-involving film.

Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Karen, a care worker spending a year in Japan whilst her boyfriend studies there. Sent to the house when the previous carer fails to show up for work she encounters a demented old woman, a mysterious small boy and his cat and something that terrifies her into unconsciousness. As she struggles to understand what happened, the terrible past of the house is revealed.

This is a wonderfully structured movie, and to say Gellar stars in it is something of a misnomer. She's the central character certainly, but there are numerous other characters that are as integral to the plot as she is. In fact, as she investigates, Karen becomes less the heroine and more the means by which we discover the past of the house. In this way, we see the fate of the Williams family, how each one of them was consumed by the curse, the role lecturer Peter Kirk (Bill Pullman) had to play and finally the tragic events that befell the Saeki family.

As a result, Gellar has one of the toughest jobs in the film as she's basically in the same boat as the viewer. She does a good job, and it makes a nice change for a female lead in a horror movie to approach what's happening to her in a sensible, grounded way. However, she doesn't have quite enough to work with for the role to be truly memorable. Oddly, she's caught up in the curse so early in the film that we don't feel much regret for what she's lost. As opposed to the gradual, almost viral onset of the supernatural in The Ring, here it arrives almost straight away and as a result, its impact is diminished.

The other cast members fare a little better, with Pullman in particular turning in a good performance. His Peter Kirk is, like Gellar's Karen, a mildly unusual character for this sort of thing, a good man trapped in a bad situation who becomes consumed by it. He also fits into the original film in a remarkably clever way, providing justification for the events at the core of the 'franchise' and placing them in a whole new light. This really is a genuinely clever script, with Pullman's character forming part of the background of the original film. Similarly, Ryo Ishibashi's Detective Nakagawa is both terrified of and drawn to the house due to what happened to his colleagues, who investigated the house in the original Japanese movie.

This sort of narrative complexity makes The Grudge an engaging puzzle of a movie to watch but also drowns the characters. Each one is so caught up in events surrounding the house that they never really develop on their own. None of them are especially sympathetic or memorable, even Gellar and as a result the film never really drags you in. Its narrative is superb, the performances are uniformly strong but it never quite involves you in the same way as The Ring remake did. Nonetheless, fans of either Japanese horror or a good ghost story will find a lot to enjoy here.
The Grudge

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith






























read our review of
the original Japanese
film of The Grudge


home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2004 Pigasus Press