Thursday, May 9, 2013

Film Review: The Grudge (2004)

The Grudge (Review)
United States/2004
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

An American family moves into a home in Japan where a brutal murder-suicide occurred. Yoko, a healthcare worker, goes to the home to take of the elderly woman with dementia that lives in the home. However, Yoko eventually goes missing. Karen is sent to replace Yoko, and she finds the haunting truth behind mysterious disappearances.

The Grudge is a remake of the Japanese horror film, Ju-on: The Grudge. Fortunately, the same director, Takashi Shimizu, helms this film. The story is told in a nonlinear style; however, it was surprisingly easy to follow compared to many similar films. The flashbacks are seamlessly blended into the film, effectively telling different characters' stories at different locations and time frames; it can be confusing if you're not completely focused, however.

The story itself is based on a grudge - when someone dies in a fit of rage, a curse is born. In this case, Takeo murders his wife, Kayako, after finding her diary, which professes her love for an American professor. Takeo also drowns his son, Toshio, and hanging himself afterward. This, in turn, creates a curse which haunts the American family that moves in afterward, as well as those who stay for a prolonged amount of time, at least that's what I took from the film; the premise of a grudge isn't actually explained in full detail, which is unfortunate since it is an interesting concept.

Kayako is the pale, long haired, bone-popping and croaking ghost; very creepy and effective. Toshio is the pale, meowing ghost; equally creepy and frightening. The story relies heavily on jump-scares; it's great the first time around, but becomes ineffective after repeat viewings. It never fully develops its characters or their relationships - you can't really describe them since they do not have characteristics; they're ultimately forgettable. It feels like a compilation of scares, it feels very disconnected.

The acting in this film is good; they get the job done effectively, although the cast won't be winning any awards any time soon (or, they didn't win awards when it released, I suppose.) The special effects and makeup are superb; I'm a big fan of Asian ghosts, and this film portrays them perfectly. Toshio and Kayako look and sound very disturbing; the meowing and croaking can send chills down your spine! The music is also creepy, at times. Takashi Shimizu direction is a bit smoother and direct this time around, although he sacrifices atmosphere for jump-scares.

Overall, The Grudge is a good horror film. Ju-on: The Grudge is a film that could've benefited greatly from a bigger budget and better equipment, and this film gladly uses its larger budget. Unfortunately, this remake relies too heavily on jump-scares, in turn, sacrificing a truly effective story and atmosphere. The first viewing will be great, but any viewing afterward will be dull. A purchase is recommended for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, disturbing imagery.

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