Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Grudge (2004) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
The last time Hollywood remade a foreign film, using the original writer/director, was when George Sluizer came to America in 1993 for The Vanishing. The result was a travesty.
Takashi Shimizu has done a similar thing with The Grudge, a movie he wrote and directed in Japan, as Ju-on, in 2003. The result is not as good as the original, due in part to Sarah Michelle Gellar's bland performance, but certainly passes muster.
Rather than ship the entire scenario to San Francisco, Shimizu stays on home territory and imports his lead actors from California. Although their relevance within the framework of a Japanese ghost story is dubious, being in Tokyo suits the director, who remains surprisingly true to himself.
The story may be simple, but its execution is not. Ju-on became more and more impenetrable as it went along, ending in a monumental muddle. The Grudge has snipped certain strands of the plot, while retaining the most arresting images, frame by frame. The ending, however, is just as baffling, only in a different way.
The concept of the haunted house has been a mainstay of horror cinema since the first transparent figure walked through a wall. This is more modern and malevolent. "Once you become part of it, it will never let you go," someone declares. "It" is the thing, the essence, the curse, the unquiet dead.
The incomers are taken out, one by terrified one. Those connected to a small house in a quite corner of the city are visited upon by startling apparitions, often of a strange, half naked child, intent on destruction.
Matthew (William Mapother) and Jennifer (Clea DuVall) have rented the house, with his senile mother (Grace Zabriske). Karen (Gellar), an exchange student, working at the American Care Centre, comes to look after the old lady during the day. Yoko (Yoko Maki), their Japanese servant, has already been gobbled up by something resembling a tidal hairpiece.
A visiting professor (Bill Pullman) becomes tangled in the mystery early on and pays for it with his life. No one quite knows what is happening, or why, and no one is safe. Even the police detective (Ryo Ishibashi), who leads the enquiry into multiple murders on the property, is not immune to a touch of the heebie-jeebies.
There is no reason to resurrect the corpse of Ju-on, except, perhaps, to improve on it. The Grudge does not succeed in doing that, although, if you have not seen the Japanese version, it remains slippery with fear.Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2004