The whole remaking Japanese horror thing started back in 2002 with the successful adaptation of The Ring. Now, two years later, another Japanese horror flick is getting the Hollywood treatment. This go around it’s The Grudge being remade by the very same director who directed the original, Ju-On: The Grudge and its sequel. Also involved are the Japanese series’ stars Takako Fuji and Yuya Ozeki as the ghostly spirits of the house. Was this whole rehashing worth it? Webster’s Dictionary says that a “grudge” is a feeling of deep-seated resentment or ill will. Pretty ironic if you think about it, since you’ll resent seeing this movie.
Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a college student studying abroad in Japan. Working part time at a care giving facility, she takes on the care of a sickly old woman (Grace Zabriskie). Only the house the old woman lives in has a curse upon it that will torment all who enter, even if they aren’t in the house. No one is safe. If you step foot in that house, you will die. Why? Because Kayoko (Takako Fuji) had a stalker crush on her college professor (Bill Pullman) so her husband flipped out and killed her and son Toshio (Yuya Ozeki). According to the film’s opening, those killed in the grip of powerful rage leave behind a spirit that will make everyone suffer.
The entire flick is full of forced “jumps” and drawn out suspense. I’m all for stretching out the suspenseful moments in horror flicks, so long as there is some kind of pay off. Here there is none. It makes no sense to have non-suspenseful suspense, that’s nonsense. If you’ve seen the poster, then you’ve seen the all the big scares in the movie. Front and center is the eye, director Takashi Shimizu loves showing it with loud booming music cues, so you see it coming miles away. That’s pretty much it. Other than that it’s a haunted house movie loaded with the same atypical “is anybody there” moments you’ve seen in horror movies for decades. I’ve seen moldy bread that was fresher than this repackaged dud.
The cast was wasted. It should have been unknowns rather than pseudo recognizable faces. Sarah Michelle Gellar didn’t have to be here. It could have been someone else. There was no real depth to the characters. They’re all about as wooden as a forest. Bill Pullman at least tries, but his two and a half scenes aren’t worth the effort. Like every other horror flick that runs circles around this, they should of used more no names like KaDee Strickland (Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid) and Jason Behr (Pleasantville). The other recognizable faces are no strangers to nepotism. Ted Raimi - brother of Sam Raimi - has appeared in the majority of his brother’s films and William Mapother - cousin of Tom Cruise - has made little cameos in a bunch of his cousin’s flicks. So right off the bat it seems like rather than have an audition process the producers called in a few favors. What gives? You can’t get showbiz virgins to sign on to this dud? It’s not like they had to take their tops off.
Another thing that annoyed me heavily about The Grudge was its continuous continuity shifting. Multiple things occur at the same time, before, or after the events in which Karen first enters the house. Continuity shifting can be a great thing. Quentin Tarantino has become a master at it. Here it seems odd; continuity shifts come off like jokes or arrive without any notice. After the first altercation in the house what immediately follows is a “for sale” sign on the door. You might think the owner is selling it because of the strange stuff going on, only you’d be dead wrong. Instead this is a continuity shift to when the owner first visits the house to buy it. Only cool and trendy indie flicks can screw with the normal Point A to Point B storylines, not a poor excuse for a haunted house movie.
Seeing The Grudge was a waste of my time and now I frankly don’t have the energy to be keep being nasty. I have seen worse this year (Soul Plane), but this is definitely in my bottom ten. Skip this folks, go see Shaun of the Dead instead. There you’ll find decent “jumps” and the laughs will be on purpose. Don’t sit through this tame PG13 sound effects extravaganza and holding end up holding your own personal grudge.