|Rating:RATED PG-13 for Scariness, Violence, and Being set in Japan
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, KaDee Strickland, Ted Raimi
Directed By: Takashi Shimizu
Takashi Shimizu’s remake of his own Japanese film (the third in the Ju-On series, making this a rare remake of a sequel) is a pleasant distraction. The film skimps on plot and focuses its energy entirely on creating a series of intense and terrifying scenes, proving to be the antithesis of films like The Ring that have focused a lot of energy on building a plot around the terror. To say that I’m surprised it worked is an understatement, as this is one of the most intense horror films released in America in the last decade.
Instead of working as a single narrative, The Grudge unfolds more like a series of episodes. However, the director (and writer Stephen Susco), do a good job of tying each scene to the rest of the film’s events, which makes for an interesting set of predicaments that almost feels like an anthology. No more than five scenes are used to advance the plot without creating a build-up to some type of scare or thrill, giving the film a relentlessness that is at times overpowering.
Granted, it’s not all greatness in Shimizu’s film. The biggest problem, as I see it, was actually in the film’s ghosts. When considering the two main ghosts, I was left thinking the older one was a leftover from The Ring, and the younger was inspired by the comedic creatures of Galaxy Quest. Add in a very unreal CGI ghost early in the film, and I felt extremely let down by the apparitions that kept showing up.
Thankfully, The Grudge doesn’t rely on them to be scary in most of their scenes, only using them to end the tension. When the ghosts are relied on for extended appearances, the fear factor decreases proportionally, ending in a couple of moments that I found to be laughable. But when the film’s at its best (particularly in the segment featuring the adorable KaDee Strickland and her trip home from work), we don’t need to “see” anything to be on the edge of our seats.
Shimizu has a great eye for tension, and despite not having seen his Asian efforts I’m quite impressed by this American version. Though it’s not high art, it’s more aggressive than most PG-13 horrors and carries itself to heights most horror films of the last few years haven’t dreamt of reaching. For pure tension and creepiness, The Grudge is as good as 21st Century Hollywood gets.