Following in the footsteps of The Ring, The Grudge is another remake of a successful peek-through-your-fingers-with-complete-terror Japanese horror flick and it’s shiveringly scary.
Sarah Michelle Gellar (infamous as vampire-slaying Buffy) plays Karen Davis, an American living in Japan with her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr from the TV series Roswell). Working as a quasi social worker, she is temporarily assigned to act as home help to a catatonic American woman. But, at the archetypal Japanese house, she makes a horrific discovery – it is haunted, cursed.
The story is told out of chronological order with Karen linking the different characters and stories, such as the suicide of Peter Kirk (played by that eternal nice-guy Bill Pullman), which transpires in the film’s first few minutes (though the shock’ element of killing a known Hollywood player ASAP, akin to Drew Barrymore in Scream is becoming a bit of a clich), the fate of the American family who own the house and, of course, the ghosts.
Ultimately, The Grudge is nothing more than a good old fashioned haunted house horror, but with more shriek packed oomph. For starters, nowhere is safe. The mother ghost is seen during the day, on public transport – even under the safety of a duvet (a well-known monster-hiding location). She appears in several terrifying forms – a CGI floating spectre with tentacles, a ghost moving in an erratic, juddering manner evocative of The Ring and as a chilling noise, like a demonic dolphin with bronchitis. (It might not sound it, but it is scary.)
Meanwhile, the little boy ghost relies solely on a chalk white complexion, kohl-lined eyes and his age for scares – after all, who doesn’t find a child, once-innocent-now-corrupted-by-evil, pretty damn unsettling? (Suggestion: if you don’t, forego The Exorcist, The Omen, etc, etc, etc.)
It’s not just the ghosts that create The Grudge’s creepy atmosphere – it’s the whole setting, that of Japan. Firstly, the curse’ (created when someone dies in the midst of a powerful rage) is based on the Ju-On, a Japanese legend. With the main characters being American, alienation is also a strong theme – as it was in Lost in Translation. A Western audience are therefore put on edge, like the characters, from the word go.
This is in no small part thanks to Takashi Shimizu who, after writing and directing the Japanese original, Ju-On, took the unusual steps of directing the remake. This is not the only Snap!’ moment between the two films. The ghostly family, played by Takako Fuji and Yuya Ozeki, reprise their roles from the original.
There are only a few problems with The Grudge, mainly arising from the story, or lack of. Yep – there are ghosts…they haunt and kill anyone that comes in contact with the house…and ur…well, that’s about it. Even the ending is left open for potential sequels. And, let’s be honest, with The Ring acting as a sort of role model, it’s only a matter of time until The Grudge 2.
If you can watch The Grudge simply to be tickled by terror (without complaining about the plot, the original being better or that Buffy would have kicked the ghosties’ arses), you’ll find a goosebump worthy horror.