The Grudge (15)

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The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/11/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Part Japanese horror movie in English, part ‘Buffy vs the Haunted House’, this is an average horror film that’s heavy on style and atmosphere but not particularly scary or engaging.

It’s not often that a foreign director agrees to remake his or her own film in English and the results are no guarantee of quality - see (or rather, don’t) Dutch director George Sluizer’s abysmal remake of his own cult thriller The Vanishing.

However, under the watchful producer’s eye of Sam Raimi, director Takashi Shimizu has remade his own Japanese blockbuster Ju-On: The Grudge, losing the foreign-sounding prefix as a precautionary measure. Early box-office receipts would seem to indicate that it worked – although not particularly well-received critically, The Grudge opened to respectable box-office Stateside and took the coveted number one spot last week. Which either means that there’s a huge market for remade Japanese horror or that there are a lot of mourning Buffy fans out there.

Plays Like Traditional Japanese Horror

The Grudge actually plays much more like a traditional Japanese horror film than a typical Hollywood horror, partly because of Shimizu himself but also because he made the interesting decision to set the film in Tokyo.

After an impressive credits sequence, the film opens with a dialogue-free prologue, in which Bill Pullman gives his wife a trademarked Bill Pullman-style Sorrowful Look before back-flipping off a tall building. He’s then ignored for over an hour while the film concentrates on Sarah Michelle Gellar instead.

Gellar plays Karen, an exchange student studying social work who agrees to fill in for a nurse who hasn’t shown up to work. She enters a normal looking house in suburban Tokyo and discovers a catatonic Grace Zabriskie, in what probably isn’t a Twin Peaks reference.

Gellar’s latent Buffy-powers tell her that Something Isn’t Right in the house and, sure enough, she discovers several shrieky things hiding in closets and the like. Shrieky things THAT KILL. Along with her American boyfriend (another ex-TV star, Jason Behr, from Roswell), she investigates and discovers that the house is the source of a Deadly Killer Revenge Curse or something. Then the shrieky things shriek some more and people die and that’s pretty much it.

Just Not Scary Enough

The main problem with The Grudge is that it just isn’t scary enough, with most of the shocks being either cheap tricks of the cat-in-the-cupboard variety or an over-reliance on shrieking. The time-line of the story is also a little confusing, although it does pay off in a nice moment that allows Pullman and Gellar to finally share screen time – it would have been better, however, if both stories had been allowed to move towards that moment at the same time, instead of Pullman’s rushed flashback.

That said, there are a couple of effective scenes. As with most Japanese horror films, the creepiest moments all seem to involve hair (think of the hair in the sink in Dark Water) and The Grudge is no exception – Gellar gets an entirely non-gratuitous shower scene that provides the film’s single scariest moment.

Similarly, Shimizu creates an extremely tense atmosphere but the script fails to capitalise on that. As for Gellar, she’s fine in the lead but by the end you’re longing for the sort of Buffy-esque witty dialogue that might have perked things up a bit.

In short, The Grudge is refreshingly different from the usual Hollywood horror pics, thanks to its setting and atmosphere, but it fails to deliver the requisite shocks.

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Content updated: 24/07/2012 02:50

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