Sarah Michelle Gellar
Horror Thriller Mystery
Trivia Yuya Ozeki, Takako Fuji, and Takashi Matsuyama all appeared in Ju-on: The Grudge (2003), the Japanese film upon which this film was based, all reprising their roles as the doomed Saeki family.
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The Grudge (2004)
27th Nov 04
Karen Davis is living in Japan with her boyfriend. When Karen is temporarily assigned to be caretaker for a woman with severe sleeping conditions, she vsits a strange house, plagued by the presence of murderous ghosts. The ghosts are the result of a vengeful curse which has taken root in the house, and as people begin dying, Karen must try to stop the curse before it's too late.
The opening credits begin to roll and within about thirty-seconds of them, I was presented with such a fright that I practically jumped out of my skin with such force that my mother who was sitting next to me jumped too. As a result, the couple sitting behind us in the cinema almost received a face full of Nacho's!
That is essentially what The Grudge is all about, delivering short, sharp shocks at increasingly regular intervals, almost to the point where the film keeps you on your toes because you don't quite know where or when the next scare's going to come from. The film does this extremely well as you almost feel like you're a passenger on a ghost-train complete with animatronics mummies and ghosts in white-sheets.
But beneath the relentless frights lies a well-composed story involving a rather waif-looking Sarah Michelle Gellar as the main character who plays a care-worker working living in Japan with her waiter boyfriend, played here by Jason Behr. Due to the mysterious disappearance of one of her co-workers, Gellar's character is assigned to the missing worker's job roster, which involves paying regular visits to a rather withdrawn and almost comatose old American lady living locally with her young family who have just recently moved east from the west.
Gellar's character reluctantly agrees to take up the task and pays a visit to the house the family occupies and is henceforth drawn into a living nightmare as she discovers not only that her patient seems to suffer from a strange case of narcolepsy, as she spends most of her time sleeping like she's competing against Rip Van Winkle, but also why she sleeps so much. As she investigates further into the woman's strange condition she begins to suspect that there's something about the house that's making her this way.
It's at this point that things start to go severely bump in the night as the heat on the cooker's turned up and the bizarre history of the house and it's past occupants is laid bare, and all the people who suffered the misfortune of having been a recent visitor of the house begin to disappear faster than Lord Lucan. The police are called in to save the day, but find that even their hefty might is put to the test in this case.
The film not only boasts numerous good scares that will make you wet your pants, but also boasts some good performances from not only the lead actors and actresses but also from the supporting cast including: Bill Pullman, Ted Raimi whose always a regular in brother Sam Raimi's film's and Clea Duvall of Robert Rodiguez's The Faculty fame. It's the fact that the actor's are able to deliver a convincing show of genuine concern regarding events transpiring around them that thickens the film's unsettling atmosphere. The Japanese police being particularly convincing when walking around wearing huge frowns and furrowed brows as they try and piece together enough clues to solve this mystery.
Also particular credit has to go to the actress who plays the old American lady whose coma-like blank-face serves to further unnerve the audience, as things get heavy. Another factor that strengthens the film's atmosphere is the bleak set design, drab lighting and colour scheme used for the house of mystery in this film. These elements serve to make the house appear at odds with the other interior and, for that matter, exterior environments used in the movie. As a result of this you begin to feel as if as if the corridors of the house are actually the confines of another world, a bizarre, frightening and dangerous world where mortals don't belong. As you would imagine this effect makes the film's shocks even more powerful as a sense of dread pervades the ghosts that manifest in the film.
Combine all of these separate elements and you have a rather superior horror movie that will have you jumping out of your seat with fright and, in my opinion, is actually better than the original. I wouldn't of thought it was possible but Sam Raimi has given almost complete autocracy to the Japanese director who made the original film when making this one and it's that partnership plus a healthier budget which conspire to make this such an effective roller-coaster horror movie. I call it this because the other cinemagoers in the screening I saw of The Grudge with my mum were jumping, howling, gasping with shock and then nervously laughing amongst themselves in groups after each scare was delivered, just like on a roller coaster.
How much more proof do you need that a horror movie has succeeded?
Versions Two slightly different versions of the film were used for test screenings. One was R-rated, while the other was rated PG-13. The PG-13 cut, which had toned down some of the disturbing images, tested better with screeners.
Almost every set, including the house, the care centre, the sister's apartment, some of the streets and the grocery store, were also used in Ju-on: The Grudge (2003). This was done not for budget reasons, but because the two films were meant to be almost exactly the same, only intended for separate Japanese and American audiences.