Screenplay by Stephen Susco
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Running Time: 1:37
for mature thematic material, disturbing
images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.
The Grudge was a very deliberately paced movie, with a few chills and thrills, but not enough to make it truly memorable.
Karen and Doug have moved to Japan because Doug wanted to study architecture abroad. Karen gets a job working with a care group, and is given an assignment to take care of an old lady in her home. What Karen doesn't know before she goes to work, is that a few years earlier, something terrible happened in the house. Everyone and anyone connected with the house turns up dead or missing. Karen needs to figure out the mystery behind the house to try and save herself, but may be too late.
I don't think there was a wasted shot in The Grudge. Everything had a purpose and the movie moved along at a nice, albeit slow, pace, letting the story unravel a little piece at a time. The film starts off almost immediately with a couple of seemingly unrelated deaths, which as we find out later, actually take places three years apart. It's never a bad thing when a horror/thriller starts off with people dying because it immediately gets you into the mood for what's about to happen. The mood is always dark and mysterious, which makes the film feel even creepier. And I think making the decision to keep the film set in Japan makes was a great one, because most Americans will feel how the characters feel; a foreigner living in a strange land, feeling almost alone in their own little world. If something scary happens to you in your hometown, you feel like you have some control because it's happening in your world. But if something happens to you in a country where you only know a couple of people, and don't speak the language very well, it makes you feel very alone.
Sarah Michelle Gellar is the 'lead' in the film, but her character doesn't appear any more or any less than a few others. Her character is sort of the focal point, but the movie goes off in different directions and uses a number of flashbacks, so that she doesn't control everything that happens. There were large chunks of time when she wasn't on screen at all and was rarely talked about otherwise. To some the flashback sequences may be a bit confusing, as they happen without any sort of visual marker to prepare you, but once you get into the film, it makes sense. I liked the story idea of something happening in the house years ago, leading to what is happening now, but I wish they had played up the Japanese lore a bit more. The idea is that in Japan, when someone dies in a house in a fit of extreme emotion or rage, they never leave the house, and everyone who enters will feel that rage. But that was all that was explained by a single police detective in broken English and never delved into more thoroughly. Some more history might have been nice to help explain why, or how this idea came into being. The reveal of what happened in the house was done pretty well, although it did leave me with a couple of questions. Nothing that has any affect on the outcome, but just a couple of things that weren't well explained. And the ending of the film was pure Hollywood.
The rest of the cast was decent enough. Again, having the movie set in Japan helped, because they cast Japanese actors in some of the roles, which made it feel more realistic. It was odd how many Americans seemed to be in that house, and there was a large coincidence that an American family bought the house, then an American aid worker ended up at the house, but I can forgive that since if you want originality, you'd go out and rent the film this movie is based on, Ju-on (The Grudge). I think I might now go out and rent the original to see what differences there were, and if this remake was in fact toned down and changed for an American audience.
As far as being a good horror film, I thought there were a lot of scenes that were cut too soon. It felt like they were trying to keep the gore down in order to secure a more family-friendly PG-13 rating. There were some creepy moments to be sure, especially anything dealing with the kid. But any time they'd show something scary, it would cut away very quickly. In some ways that could be an effective tool; the sort of hit-and-run mentality so that you only see a glimpse and wonder what else is out there. But it happened throughout the movie, so any time something even close to being disgusting was shown, it was hurriedly taken away. I'm not saying the whole movie had to be a bloodfest, but a few more lingering shots of dead bodies or grotesque imagery might have made it a little more scary, and lead to a few more nightmares.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Grudge, but it could have used a few more scares to make it a great horror film. It was certainly a well-made movie, just not the kind of film that I'd want to watch every Halloween to put me in the mood.