The Grudge review by The Grim Ringler

Ok, for those who didn’t know, The Grudge was an adaptation of a Japanese film series. Same director, same idea, remade for America. The heck of it was, having seen the re-make, all I can say is – what was the point? Nothing new was done, nothing is done better, and in the end, the mystique of the series seems to have been forgotten in the translation. And this is sort of the movie that proves the point that Americans need to start opening their hearts to foreign films. Yes, some remakes do work better – Ring was a better film than the original Japanese and I’ll admit that completely, though that’s more due to the skill of the director than anything else. It’s beyond time for current movies to be remade for Americans because too many of us are too lazy to read subs. Heck, how would we feel if Titanic or Saving Private Ryan was ignored overseas because it was in English and instead say Asia decided it’d rather have Spielberg or Cameron remake their films just for that region. How silly and selfish is that? We’d say – suck it up, it’s our movie, you can read the subs if you want it. Oh, sure, once in a while we get a dubbed version of the original but that’s many times almost worse if you look at some films like the first Jackie Chan films that found their way here in the early nineties. We got edited, badly dubbed, awfully re-scored versions of action movies. Good grief. We don’t even want to read subs for an ACTION film. And I can understand the not wanting to read subs, hell, I have to be in a mood myself at times, but these are not our films to just take and leave as we please. These are the films of another culture. We’re lucky we even get to see these gems. Back when I was first getting into films seriously you had to get a bootleg of anything not made in the Western Hemisphere. Asian and Italian films were as distant rumors and whispered dreams. It’s an honor for we as Americans to be able to see the films of the world, and it’s a hell of an insult to tell them – well, thanks, but as swell as that sounds, I can’t get into it unless Americans are in the cast and it’s in English. So we come to The Grudge, re-mixed and re-done but empty of soul and reason. Welcome to America Shimzu-san.

Telling the same tale as the Japanese films, The Grudge presents us with a house haunted by the horrors of domestic abuse gone to extremes. A mother, son, and their cat have been killed by a jealous father who seems to have died in his rage, and these deaths, murders, have stained the house they happened in and all that come in contact with the home are cursed by The Grudge, or the curse of rage if you will. First consuming a young family, and then those that come to find what happened to them, the grudge spreads like a stain, first haunting, then devouring each person as their lives mingle with the home. When a young American student comes upon the horrors of the house she too is caught up in the nightmare and must find out its source and hope that she can either get to the truth of the grudge or escape it, but is it too late?

While I would normally spend more time distilling the film’s plot, well, that’s about it. And at this point I feel that you can just read the first reviews I wrote for the original films if you want a better idea of what is happening. In essence the American Grudge is a ‘best-of’ from the original films, and as such it’s fine. The film has scares, has atmosphere, and if you entered the theater unaware of any other version of this story then it could be very effective I am sure. But even so, there is no soul here and it just feels like nothing more than a re-hash of things done better in the other films. Takashi Shimzu does a good job of trying to bring the suspense and mystery that his previous films held but it just doesn’t work. The American actors are adequate but really do seem out of place and feel like what they are – stand-ins for Asians. Hell, no wonder the grudge goes after them, they’re in a remake of a better Asian film. What really bothers me is that, despite trying to ape the original films and their narrative style of jumping between stories, this film just doesn’t work where it counts – the ending and the revelation of what the grudge is. The ending was an awful cop-out and the revelation is just silly as it’s told as if Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character was there to witness the happenings as a third party omniscient spectator. It’s a dreadful gimmick and feels awkward. Worst of all for me was that the horror of the revelation is lost. The idea that the wife fixated on a teacher and decided that he was meant to be with her, stalks him, and projects she and her son into his life. The husband, upon learning this, believes it to be so and slaughters everyone – including the teacher’s family in the original film, a revelation that is shocking and truly terrifying. The back-story is over-explained and takes away the mystery of what is happening. And when all is said and done, you have a mimic of what had been a very good film. The heck of it too is that this FEELS like a PG-13 horror film. The moments of horror are trimmed and feel sanitized – which I guess they were being that there is a director’s cut of this due out in time for the sequel to hit theaters.

Yes, I am bitter that this was re-made. I won’t lie there. I respect Ghost House, the studio behind making this film, in that they wanted the original director to do the film, but perhaps it would have been better left to another director, someone who could have taken what is an Asian film in every way (meaning it was vague, dream-like, and relied more on terror and suspense than logic) and distilled its essence into a re-vision suited for an American taste. Instead what we have is basically fast food Asian cuisine. Sure, it sorta tastes like the good stuff, but it’s more of a shadow, a memory of the food you were wanting. The film did well enough to warrant a sequel, so obviously there are many people that disagree strongly with me, and good for them. This will scare a lot of people, and heck, what works for each person is entirely based on that individual’s expectations about what they are getting. And maybe this will open the eyes of some more people to Asian horror and to world films in general. Far from a great film in my eyes and nothing more than a literal ghost of what it apes, The Grudge is worth a rental if you are curious, and I would wager would be far more effective when seen at home, in the dark, and with your mind open and your expectations none. But absent of mystery, horror, and the dreamy terror of the mother and son that were so strongly portrayed in the originals, this is nothing more than the powdered milk version of a pretty neat series. Consider this the Cliff’s Notes versions of Ju-On – the grudge.


5 out of 10 Jackasses
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