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The Grudge
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Takashi Shimizu (Director/Screenwriter) and Stephen Susco (Screenwriter)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   Released October 22, 2004
Review Date:   October 27, 2004
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

If I ever move to Tokyo, there is one thing I'm going to be sure of before I even get off the plane. I'm going to make sure no one has ever died where I'm supposed to stay or visit. I'm going to Web-search, hit the libraries, newspaper morgues, hire a P.I., whatever it takes to make sure I'm moving into a death-free zone. Then I will never go inside another building alone, ever. That is the main lesson I got from watching The Grudge.

The other lessons I learned are that kids are creepy in any county, and that the Japanese really have a lock on the horror genre right now.

In 2002 we got The Ring, which is one of the best and scariest ghost stories of the last 20 years. That film presented us with spooky kids, a vengeful ghost, deaths o' plenty and Naomi Watts. This year The Grudge gives us a spooky kid, deaths o' plenty, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and some really, really, really pissed-off ghosts.

Stephen King said what's really scary about the haunted house story is that it happens in the home, where you're supposed to be safe. In most other stories you can lock out all the monsters and hide in the safety of your living room, but in a haunted house story you are locked IN with the boogums. In most American haunted house movies (The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist) the ghosts want you to GET OUT, or they'll kill you. In The Grudge, just stopping by for a visit ticks the ghosts off to a lethal degree. Delivery restaurants in Tokyo must go through drivers like nobody's business!

Gellar plays Karen, an exchange student living in Tokyo with her architecture student boyfriend Doug (Jason "Roswell" Beher). Karen is working for Alex (Ted "Joxer the Mighty" Rami) at a Care Center to get a social service credit for collage. She's asked to substitute for another girl who didn't come in for work. They need her to go and check on Emma Williams, a homebound older catatonic woman. Care to guess why she's catatonic?

Gellar is being touted as the lead of The Grudge, but while she does have the most screen time, the movie is really more of an ensemble piece. The storyline goes back and forth, weaving together the tales of Karen, her boyfriend, her boss, the Williams family, a collage professor (a nice casting surprise I won't ruin), a police officer, and all of their interactions with the ghosts.

The story, told in vignettes that are placed out of order, flashing backwards and forwards (a la Pulp Fiction), is a bit slow. However, it's a good, creepy, tension-building slow as we see how everything comes together.

In fact, the movie is actually more creepy than scary. Director Shimizu really knows how to build the mood and pile on the tension. He keeps things on the periphery, teasing you along until the BOO pops up. Sometimes he takes it a bit too slow, but not what you'd call Shyamalan-slow. There are a few solid scares in the film, and almost all of them are of the ghost-pops-up variety, but they are done very well. The really scary part of the movie is considering the nature of the curse/grudge and its ramifications.

The ghosts are nice and disturbing. Watching the ghost crawl, appear out of the shadows, and slide down the walls is just chilling. Something about its face is just gripping.

Since both The Grudge and The Ring are adaptations of Japanese originals, comparisons are going to happen. I enjoyed both movies quite a bit, but I like The Ring better. It's a bit more cohesive and has more scares. The Grudge is a good movie, but it's all about mood and is not quite as intense. But The Ring was Americanized in plot, casting and location, while The Grudge swaps out some of the Japanese characters for Americans living in Tokyo. That swap actually enhances the feel of the film, adding to the characters' sense of isolation. The movies share similarities but are different enough to have their own creepy charms.

Few horror fans should be unsatisfied with The Grudge.

Just remember to make sure no one was ever killed at the theatre in a tragic popcorn accident.

RevolutionSF contributor Gary Mitchel was in the shower one time, and OH MY GOD, WHOSE HAND IS THAT?!

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