The Grudge (2004)

It never forgives. It never forgets.

An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

The Grudge begrudgingly latches onto croaky jump scares without logical cohesion. This, is an unusual horror to review. It’s rather uncommon for the same director, in this case Takashi Shimizu, to remake his own original film for an entirely different audience. Most would push their original creation onto the masses and convince them, with glorified persuasion, to withstand subtitles and invest the time into the chilling ghost story.
Yet Shimizu thought it would be apt to direct his own film again. Admirable? Yes, it ensured he received total creative control over the studio and producers. Necessary? No. Somehow, by remaking the exact story with essentially the same spine-tingling sequences, Shimizu downgraded the atmospheric aura of ‘Ju-On’, resulting in nothing more than a Japanese ghost boy releasing his inner cat and his ethereal mother croaking the life out of anyone who visits the cursed house. That’s the plot synopsis, right there.
Well, there’s a tad bit more to the mystery, however Shimizu’s insistence on haphazardly fracturing the narrative between present day and the past week consequently confused audiences rather than enthral. There’s no logic behind the structure. No foundational development. And certainly no characterisation. So the abrupt switching back and forth held no purpose, other than to illustrate a host of jumpy death sequences. Some effective apparitional imagery heightened the tension, particularly the surveillance footage sequence and bedroom scene that made me frightened of my own bloody duvet when I was an innocent boy, yet negated by the bland acting from every single actor.
Buffy has no more vampires to slay or Daphne has solved all remaining mysteries (take your pick...), and so she’s left wandering aimlessly around Tokyo with just one facial expression. Confusion. Pullman contributed nothing. And even Kayako herself, Fuji, was grossly misused during moments of tension-raising buildup. The final expositional flashback sequence, revealing to us why the house is now essentially cursed, was rushed and overwrought. Then concluding the entire feature on a frickin’ jump scare that looked cheaper than Kayako’s mascara. By the time the credits roll, you’ll be thinking to yourself “...why are these Americans in Tokyo anyway?”.
I just...don’t understand how Shimizu can make his remake so unprogressive in terms of quality. He had another shot at bettering his original, overcoming previous criticisms, yet failed miserably. I’m open to the idea that The Grudge is a product of its time, comprising of several horror traits that the previous decade had commonly exploited. And I appreciate it stuck to its J-horror roots. But damn, this has not aged well in the slightest. The core is there. I can visibly see the contents. Yet, either due to Shimizu’s inability to improve in directorial control or studio interference, The Grudge growled like a ghoulish kitten instead of exhuming a ghostly lion’s roar. Y’know, because Toshio opens his CGI mouth and a cat noise comes out? Urgh, whatever. Couldn’t think of anything...

Vertigo Entertainment, Ghost House Pictures, Fellah Pictures, Senator International, Columbia Pictures by Takashi Shimizu, Stephen Susco.
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea DuVall, William Mapother.

Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Keywords: nurse house remake curse tokyo, japan old woman catatonia

10/22/2004

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