More of an interesting production than a great horror movie
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 02/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the $39 million that "The Grudge" earned in its opening weekend to make it the #1 film in the nation, I had low expectations when I popped this DVD in to watch. This was because my youngest daughter had rushed out to see the film (because it had Sarah Michelle Gellar a.k.a. "Buffy the Vampire" in it) and she was bitterly disappointed. While I would not trust her opinion as to what is a great movie (she loves "Gone With the Wind" but does not get "The Godfather"), I thought she would know what was a bad horror movie. Consequently, I think my expectations for "The Grudge" were so low that there was nowhere to go but up once I actually watched it.
I knew this 2004 horror film was a remake of the Japanese movie "Ju-on," in the tradition of "Ringu"/"The Ring," but I did not know that it was filmed in Japan by the same director, Takashi Shimizu (I tend to avoid finding out a lot about films until I actually see them so that I be pure of mind when I first watch them). This makes a big difference because the idea behind this production is behind both the strengths and the weaknesses of "The Grudge" as a film. However, since I lived in Japan for a couple of years, have enjoyed Japanese films in general and "Spirited Away" in particular, and have an ability to understand non-linear narrative forms, I have to admit that I have a peculiar position from which to view the film (so take what follows with a grain of salt).
As the opening of the film explains, "When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury." When you listen to the DVD extras you learn that there is another key ingredient: the source of that rage is that the victim does not know why they were murdered. This is important because this is not your typical American horror movie where the guilty die grizzly deaths. The innocent are the only items on the menu this time around. If you want other clear indications that this is a Japanese horror movie then notice that Shimizu goes for the creeps over suspense (guessing who is next to die is never difficult), the camera never lingers on the film's grossest images, and seeing the ghost happens early and often. The last one presents the most problems in terms of cultural translation because the Japanese conception of demons is so foreign to American audiences (I know, duh, but it is true) as is the idea of a Japanese monster house ("Obakeyashiki").
Executive producer Sam Raimi had seen "Ju-on" and came up with the idea of remaking the movie in Japan with the same director but with American actors for an English speaking audience. So this is not the same thing as splicing in scenes of Raymond Burr to turn "Gojira" into "Godzilla," but it is somewhat pointed in that same direction. Stephen Susco's screenplay has to come up with reasons why the American actors are working (and dying) in Japan and while he certainly comes up with plausible means of employment, there is an elephant in the living room in that the body count consists mostly of gaijin but that is never a part of the equation. Granted, Detective Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) is suspicious of the house given what had happened three years earlier, but this film really needed to deal with the gaijin issue better (I was going to say that having more Japanese killed off in the movie would help, but then we have the problem a gaijin being the heroine in a story set in Japan).
However, at some point a decision was made for Jeff Betancourt to edit "The Grudge" in a non-linear fashion. Now, what they came up with is an interesting approach, but clearly most viewers are not picking up on what is happening right away. Beginning with the opening deaths before the title credits are over, "The Grudge" follows the first death backwards to the beginning of the tale and the second forward to the ending. These two plotlines alternate to the climax in which they actually come together. Unfortunately, this is just way too convenient as the only way that our heroine can understand what is going on. At a point where the puzzle is coming together we are wondering how this is happening when the focus should be on understanding why everything is happening.
Another way in which the production is more interesting than the movie is the limited use of CGI. Throughout the commentary track, Gellar talks about the lengths to which Japanese filmmakers keep things real. The shot of the hand coming out of the back of her character's head in the shower is not a CGI shot. The ghost creepily crawling down the stairs is all the performance of actress Takako Fuji and not a puppet on wires or anything else. When characters listen to messages on an answering machine, there are actually messages on the answering machine. But, again, unless you check out the DVD extras you have no way of appreciating the realism of this particular movie. The more you check out the more you will rethink what is going on in the movie.
"The Grudge" is a creepy movie where the ghost is a lot more interesting than Karen the heroine. But then most of the characters are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time so that bad things can happen to them. Still, my wife screamed twice and jumped three times while watching this, so it can have the desired effect (at least on those unaccustomed to the way modern horror films work). More importantly, the attempt to make a Japanese horror movie for Americans, versus an American version of a Japanese horror movie, is worth paying attention to. Ultimately, I am trying to convince you to watch this movie twice, after checking out all of the DVD features in between."
"The Grudge" vs. "The Ring"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 10/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many different kinds of scary movies. There are the teenage flicks, like "Freddy vs. Jason" that are all gore and seem to be ongoing metaphors that sex and drugs are bad. Meanwhile, there are the 'adult' mature scary movies, like "The Ring" and "The Grudge". In my opinion, "The Ring" was not scary. The only startling parts were, as a previous reviewer said, the closet scene and the very end. "The Ring" is very suspensful, I'll give it that, but it still left me wondering... "The Grudge" on the other hand, which I saw last night (opening night) was DARN scary. I went to see it with my friend and we both brought our teddy bears as a joke. Well, we did end up clutching those teddy bears throughout the movie. In the theatre, people jumped, screamed, cried, and laughed. The laughter was nervous laughter, the laughter of people that have seen the trailer and know that, for example, that a hand is going to come out of SMG's head in the shower scene. Before seeing the movie, I had watched the trailer several times, and got scared just watching that. The movie has so many creepy scenes. It may not be rated R, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the money. My friend Lynn covered her eyes whenever the "scary" music started to play and missed half of the movie. I had to explain everything to her afterwards. I was pleased with how the movie wrapped up--I understood how the curse started. It was easy to wrap my 15-year old head around the concept. One of my favorite scenes in the movie was the part where the horrid creature/ghost is stalking the woman Susan (I think her name was Susan). The noise made by the creature is un-nerving and makes me shiver now. I won't give anything away...but the ending is superb. Not quite as suspensful as "The Ring" ending, but still good. There were SO many scary scenes in "The Grudge" that it made up for it. In the long run, "The Grudge" is a great movie to see with a friend or a boyfriend/girlfriend. SMG does a great job as Karen and all Buffy fans (such as me) will love seeing her on the big screen in a movie that is not goofy like "Scooby Doo"."
B. E Jackson | Pennsylvania | 10/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"WOW. That's the only thing I can say after reading all sorts of negative reviews. I admit, the very first time I watched the Grudge with my father NEITHER of us thought the movie was scary at all and couldn't understand its success, but after watching the movie a second time two months later by myself late at night I REALLY began to see how frightening the movie is. Probably contains the same amount of fear as the original Exorcist, another movie that's really effectively well done. You HAVE to watch the Exorcist and the Grudge at night to get the proper effect.
The Grudge benefits greatly when it comes to maintaining a moody atmosphere and a pretty interesting story. I say "pretty interesting" because the storyline isn't the best, or the easiest to understand. Just interesting enough to get the job done. The Grudge also benefits when it comes to not giving away too much or too little. In fact, this is probably its strongest point.
Every time something scary happens, you see just a "little bit" of that scary monster boy or some kind of strange shadow effect, which is *very* important if you want to effectively scare someone. If the scary boy had appeared on screen for longer than a few seconds it wouldn't have scared me nearly as much because I would have gotten used to seeing it. The boy appears, and then he's gone. Not giving away too much REALLY works with this movie. You see, to really scare me you simply CAN'T put a scary monster on screen for long periods of time and you HAVE to create a moody atmosphere to make the film believable. The Grudge works *extremely* well it this area.
The fact that something scary happens almost always unexpectedly in the Grudge allows me to give the film another compliment. I'm telling you, the scene with the woman inside that building by herself (well, except for a security guard) and having to travel home to an apartment building all by herself is about 10 minutes of total bone-chilling excitement. I *loved* this scene.
I was totally on the edge of my seat wondering when the woman was finally going to have something bad happen to her. The scene where the woman saw darkness coming before walking down the stairs and having to hurry up to get out of there was *awesome*, and the scene a few moments after this happened where she DID see something in the shadow was ANOTHER awesome display of bone-chilling brilliance. There's a bunch of scenes like this throughout the movie. Freakin' AWESOME!
Excellent pacing and suspense makes the Grudge a true horror classic, in my opinion. I've seen a thousand horror movies in my time and I'd easily put the Grudge right up there as one of the best.
People today have drastically different opinions when it comes to what makes a movie scary. Remember the good old days when everyone could agree that the Exorcist was the scariest movie of all-time? I wish everyone agreed that the Grudge is a total classic, and that the Ring is another excellent one."
The Director's Cut is GREAT!
R. Hasselbaum | Boston, MA | 02/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I caught the theatrical release of this film on HBO and loved it! Definitely a must-see for any fan of Asian-style horror, creepy atmospherics, and nightmare imagery.
What really surprised me, though, was how much BETTER the Director's Cut is. The ending in this version is absolutely terrifying and macabre, much more so than the PG-13 release, and easily on par with the chilling climax of "The Ring". (It's not surprising they had to tone it down for the MPAA.) If you saw this in the theater and liked it, you have to check out this version."
WARNING-Double Dip Coming Your Way!
G. Joseph Evans | Port Jefferson Station, NY USA | 02/05/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The commentary eludes to the fact that A LOT was trimmed to make this a PG-13 film for kiddie American audiences. An Unrated Director's Cut is coming to DVD in a few months. This "new" American practice of studios not giving director's final cut and forcing them to trim down horror movies at the eleventh hour just to get a PG-13 rating and then releasing them TWICE on DVD is really getting on my last nerve. I'm 34 years old and I like to see R-rated horror films now that mommy no longer has to accompany me to the theater....HOLLYWOOD PAY ATTENTION -You are alienating all the Gen-Xers who love horror films....."