The Grudge (2004) Jan 1, 2020 23:02:08 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 1, 2020 23:02:08 GMT -5
The Grudge (2004)
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Following the enormous success of The Ring — a remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu from the late nineties — in 2002, Takashi Shimizu signed on with Sam Raimi's production company Ghost House Pictures in order to retool his creation, Ju-On: The Grudge, for American audiences. It might've been better for Raimi's company to acquire the rights to Ju-On and for Shimizu to sign off on that proposition as opposed to create an inferior product, but as we've seen in the past, Hollywood would rather remake a popular foreign horror film than give another country credit.
The Grudge is exactly what you get when you turn a marginally creepy picture into a total, incoherent bore. Its non-linear narrative inhibits understanding of what is ultimately not a very complicated premise, at least until out-of-context cuts and alternate timelines are inserted at pure random. It's a bold move either way; one that can inspire greater investment and intrigue, of course when it's done well. When it isn't, the move summons little else besides confusion and apathy, two feelings that were all too common for me as I tried to make sense of the film for 95 minutes.
The prologue describes a curse that is born when someone dies in a fit of restlessness; an entity summoned upon death that leaves behind a lasting impact on those who come in contact with it. Therein, it continues to live through unassuming victims. In this case, the curse itself resides in an average-looking home in Japan, and the subsequent opening scene shows a couple at daybreak where the man, clearly out of touch with reality, throws himself off of his balcony down to the street below.
Enter Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar in her post-Buffy days), an exchange student who is tasked with taking care of an elderly American woman named Emma (Grace Zabriskie), who has dipped into a catatonic state. Her house is a wreck, with tape lining the walls and her saying little to justify it. Like any unassuming woman in a supernatural horror film, Karen begins to hear suspicious noises throughout the house, which often come from a pale boy with jet-black hair. His presence is a mystery to Karen, as is the thick black smoke that occasionally descends from the ceiling and onto Emma.
The Grudge jumps back and forth between three distinct timelines: Karen's, a young couple who relocate to the Tokyo home along with the woman's dementia-stricken mother, and Kayako Saeki (Takako Fuji), the original occupier who harbored deep feelings for her college professor. The timelines are jumbled in such a way that, upon reading a more cogent synopsis, it isn't particularly difficult to piece the events together. Why Shimizu and screenwriter Stephen Susco felt the desire to needlessly complicate what could've been a linear storyline is a mystery to me.
Ultimately, this wouldn't be the make-or-break detail of the film if it wasn't so sterile as a whole. The Grudge reeks of a CW production, akin more to One Tree Hill, with its lousy production values and impossibly attractive, English-speaking cast. The house itself doesn't look intimidating either; in fact, it's too ordinary, with no natural ambiance created. The rising tension and atmosphere comes from the jarring synths and presence of the grudge itself, respectively. Most of the performers run through their dialog with the conviction of a second read in a state that renders them almost completely emotionless. Factor in these other handicaps and distractions on top of a disjointed timeline and you're left with an ungainly mess of plot.
15 years later, if there is a silver-lining at hand here, it's that lackluster supernatural horror films aren't a new thing despite several installments of Paranormal Activity and Insidious populating cinemas throughout the 2010s. In some ways, The Grudge was ahead of its time on that front.
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, KaDee Strickland, Clea DuVall, Bill Pullman, and Takako Fuji. Directed by: Takashi Shimizu.