Director – Takashi Shimizu
Cast – Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman, Rosa Blasi, Ted Raimi, Ryo Ishibashi
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After the success of the first big American remake of an Asian horror flick, The Ring, the doors were opened for a slew of American remakes of films that gave Asia it’s supremacy in the area of supernatural horror. One of Japan’s biggest films in the vein of Ringu(the flick that created the “creepy looking girl” films and was remade as The Ring) is Ju-on: The Grudge, so it is no surprise that this film was remade for the American market. After the success of The Ring a lot of horror fans were ready to balk at the idea of ANOTHER American remake of a Japanese film, but when news of Sam Raimi’s involvement in the film as well as the film’s original director helming this film’s direction, we were relieved. Sure enough, this proved to be what made the film a positive, frightening experience.
The Grudge stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen, an American nurse living in Japan with her boyfriend Doug, an American architecture student studying abroad. When a local nurse mysteriously disappears during a home visit, Karen is sent to the home to take her spot. This seems like a simple task until she begins to notice strange occurrences in the home, and those around her associated with the home begin to disappear. She then learns that a horrible crime happened there several years prior, a crime that left a vengeful spirit filled with rage that hunts down and kills all those who get involved with the home. Karen is no win a battle for her life from a spirit she cannot run from, and as the people around her begin to die horrible deaths she realizes that her time is short, and she must act quickly if she wants to live.
I know that much of the horror community is tired of these supernatural vengeful creepy looking girl flicks, but I do tend to enjoy this horror sub-genre. To me creepy is creepy, whether it is overdone or not. Luckily for The Grudge, it debuted before the horror realm was oversaturated with these flicks, so it didn’t get the bashing that more recent remade films like Pulse and Shutter did. This film is also another positive remaking effort that was just as efficiently scary, if not scarier than it’s original version. We don’t get too many of these great remaking efforts, and with Hollywood showing no slowing down in remaking horror films it is nice to know that some of them really can be a great watch.
Director Takashi Shimizu did an excellent job with this film, and it seems there was not a lot of ridiculous Hollywood intervention in his remake of his own film. I really respect Sam Raimi and Ghost House Productions for not leaning on this guy to really Americanize his film. I guess it takes a horror maestro like Raimi to know that these Japanese director’s know their horror and it is best to let them run free and do what they do. One example of this is the fact that this film does not take place in America, but in it’s original setting…Japan. This was a great move by the filmmakers and I believe it added greatly to the creep factor given the mean set is a creepy looking Japanese home, which is something we would not have been given if this film took place in America. It is not very often that a horror remake is helmed by if’s very own original writer-director, and this proved to be a very good idea for this film’s sake. Although Mr. Shimizu did not write this American remake, his direction is top notch. His pacing is amazing and I never once found myself bored even though I have seen this film several times in the past. I was really glued into the film’s story and how very well put together it is with it’s slightly interlocking storylines. He also did an amazing job with this film’s atmosphere and scare scenes. I remember getting massive chills the first time I viewed this film, thanks much to his camera work with the scenes involving the vengeful spirit. This spirit really puts “Tamara” from The Ring to shame, although I did find her creepy as well. Shimizu’s dark and grainy use of cinematography really sets this film’s gloomy mood, and his score is chilling, ESPECIALLY the use of the spirit’s voice. If you were to ever experience hearing it in real life (outside of this movie) there is no way you’d have a good night’s sleep for the rest of your life. Yes, it is THAT creepy.
The acting performances in this film were well done, especially that of the old lady with dementia. If I didn’t know better I’d say they used an actual house-ridden dementia patient, but of course that would never happen…right? It’s also always a joy to see Ted Raimi act in horror films, although we don’t get a great death scene from his like we usually do(spoiler, I know) it’s still great to see this guy getting more work in the horror community.
I have no major complaints for this film, although I did feel a bit less engaged during it’s second act, and was not impressed with this film’s conclusion. I am a fan of unhappy endings, but I felt this ending was a bit rushed and unfulfilling. Oh well, if this film was perfect I would have told you at the beginning.
Overall, this is a great remake that embodies the same feel as the original and keeps the scare meter at it’s highest point. Check this out if you area a fan of Asian horror cinema and would like to see a Japanese horror director do his thing. In the American market.
– I ranked this film as an “Honorable Mention” in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(11-20) post.