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John’s Horror Corner: The Grudge (2004), the suspenseful remake of the Japanese Ju-on: The Grudge (2002).

January 21, 2020

MY CALL: Despite lacking the scariness that I recall back in 2004, this is an engaging film worthy of your time. It features a great cast and a well-told, very creepy story with some memorable visuals. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Grudge: Well, Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) and Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2003) would be the best place to start; followed by The Ring (2002) and Ringu (1998), then Ju-on (2000) and Ju-on 2 (2000).

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019). Those to avoid include The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Night of the Demons (2009), Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), War of the Worlds (2005) and The Mummy (2017). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Fright Night (2011), Maniac (2012) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

Having moved abroad to Tokyo with her boyfriend (Jason Behr), Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, The Grudge 2) accepts a social work case after a senile elderly woman’s (Grace Zabriskie) caretaker (Yôko Maki) curiously disappears.

After Karen has a disturbing supernatural encounter during her house call, it seems that everyone who comes in contact with that house finds a terrible fate… including the previous owners years ago.

“When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death.”

When our first victim encounters a ghastly spirit in the attic, the shots are simple but tactful as they reveal the pale shadow-obscured visage, and the ghost’s face is effectively unnerving. And while the CGI hasn’t aged magnificently over 15 years, the creeping hair remains eerie but no longer feels so scary. In fact, I feel like many ploys utilized in this film felt much more creepy in 2004 than they do now. For example, somehow the cat-hissing ghost kid and the slow-croaking female ghost just don’t seem to cut it anymore.

Sure, some of the scary stuff doesn’t hold up well. But the suspense is strong, and the writing and story remain stimulating. When they discover the owners of the house strangely placed in the attic along with “someone’s” ripped-out lower jaw… color me creeped out and intrigued. And when you see the lower jaw-ripped victim—solid gory gold!

Director Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on 1-2, The Grudge 1-2, Flight 7500) delivers a solidly entertaining horror remake (of his own original) which, I feel, suffers greatest from a lack of intensity. Not sure if an R rating would solve it, but it would have likely unbridled the director. Still, Bill Pullman (The Serpent and the Rainbow, Brain Dead, Lake Placid) and Ted Raimi’s (Drag Me to Hell, Wishmaster) roles guide us to interesting surprises, and some video scenes and our facially-obscured female ghost are kindly thematic of The Ring (2002).

Despite lacking the scariness that I recall in 2004, this is an engaging film worthy of your time. It features a great cast and a well-told, creepy story.

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