The Grudge (2004) Poster

(2004)

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Creepier than having someone stare at you in a bathroom stall!
TheMovieMark21 October 2004
According to The Grudge, there's a Japanese belief that when someone dies in a powerful grip of rage, then a curse is left behind. It's a "stain" that forever becomes a part of the place where the death occurred, and it will kill everything it touches. All I can say is if that were true then the movie-going public better hope I never die in a theater. The audience at this movie was probably the most obnoxious crowd I've ever had the displeasure of watching a movie with. Talk about being in a powerful grip of rage. More on that later.

Jump scenes rule the day here. That's right, this baby is stocked with jump scenes! If you're having a hard time deciphering my complicated terminology, then let me explain that a "jump scene" is one in which something startling happens to catch you off guard and makes you jump in your seat. Some people think jump scenes are cheap ploys to get a scare from the audience, but they're really well done in this movie. And they're manufactured frequently and shrewdly enough to keep you in a constant state of unease.

Unfortunately, when most moviegoers get scared they like to scream and then laugh and talk about it for 2 minutes afterwards. If you're gonna scream then scream. But then SHUT UP and WATCH THE MOVIE! This ain't a comedy and it certainly isn't a coffeehouse, so quit killin' my atmosphere.

Some of you might be a little agitated to know that The Grudge does follow some clichéd horror movie conventions, such as a character investigating a creepy noise in a dark attic with only a cigarette lighter to illuminate the way. And of course, one character has to slowly follow a strange figure that shouldn't be there in the first place. But it's forgivable. Keep in mind, characters aren't necessarily supposed to know they're in a horror movie. I'm sure we've all explored strange noises before, except rather than a horrific, disfigured ghost producing the noise, in real life the sound is usually coming from Uncle Larry's bathroom excursion. Never underestimate the horror of a night out at the Taco Bell.

Comparisons to The Ring are inevitable, so I'll just say that I personally feel The Grudge is the creepier of the two. This is a movie that's heavy on atmosphere and freaky imagery. The Japanese ghosts creeped me out even more than the time I caught some pervert staring at me in the men's bathroom stall back in my college days. Lucky for him, he took off before I had a chance to demonstrate what happens when a person is caught in a powerful grip of rage.

But The Ring has the better story and a much better ending. The Grudge does a great job of keeping you guessing. You never really know where it's going, and since the story isn't linear you really have to pay attention. I know a lot of you have the attention span of a goldfish (about 9 seconds, you just learned something today, thank me later), so this may be problematic. I think it works fairly well, but one of my complaints is that near the end everything is wrapped up and explained rather quickly.

As a result, I wish the movie had been longer. A longer running time could've produced more in-depth character development, a more clever way to explain what was going on, and maybe even a better ending. And there's my biggest complaint. Why do so many horror movies feel the need to use the I Know What You Did Last Summer-esque "look, there's gonna be a sequel" ending? Come on, how about some closure? It's similar to if you're waiting for me to close out my review in a witty and funny fashion, but instead, for some reason I just decide to end the review in mid sent...

THE GIST

If you're looking for some Halloween entertainment, then The Grudge will give you some good jumps and surround you with creepy imagery. But I strongly recommend that you see it at a time when there won't be a big crowd because I know I would've enjoyed the movie a lot more had I not been surrounded by a lot of stand-up comedians who felt the need to crack jokes at the most tense and inopportune times. Folks, this is a horror movie. Tension and atmosphere are a big part of it, so please keep your laughing and talking to a minimum. I look forward to watching the DVD in peace and quiet one day where the only idiots I'll possibly be surrounded by will be friends and family.

Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
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9/10
Just as good as the Japanese films (but with an ending rant against remakes of foreign films)
Brandt Sponseller4 February 2005
Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an exchange student in Japan who is just beginning to do some social work, is sent to aid an elderly semi-catatonic woman, Emma (Grace Zabriskie), after her previous caretaker, Yoko (Yoko Maki), disappears. Karen soon learns that something is not right in Emma's home, and she attempts to "see how deep the rabbit hole goes".

Maybe it's a delayed influence from the success of M. Night Shyamalan's films, but slower-paced, understated horror films are a recent trend. In some cases, such as Hide and Seek (2005), the approach works remarkably well, and in others, such as White Noise (2005), the pacing tends to kill the film. I didn't like The Grudge quite as much as Hide and Seek, but this is still a very good film--it earns a 9 out of 10 from me.

The Grudge has a couple significant differences from other recent examples of that trend, however. One, it is well known that this is a remake based on the Japanese film series that began with Ju-On (2000) (in particular, it's extremely close to the first half of Ju-On: The Grudge, aka Ju-On 3, from 2003). Two, as with many Japanese horror films, the slower pacing here isn't so much in the realm of realist drama as with surrealism. As is also the case with a large percentage of European horror, The Grudge should be looked at more as a filmed nightmare.

Director Takashi Shimizu, also the director of the five Japanese entries in the Ju-On series to date (the fifth is currently in production), and writer Stephen Susco have largely dispensed with linearity and are not overly concerned with logic or plot holes when it comes to the horror behind the story. The idea instead is to present a dreamlike sequence of scenes, with dream logic, where the focus is atmosphere, creepiness, the uncanny, and for many viewers--scares. How well the film works for you will largely depend on how well you can adapt yourself to, or are used to, this different approach to film-making (although admittedly, some of the seeming gaps are filled in by previous entries in the Ju-On series). Traditionally, American audiences consider as flaws leaving plot threads hanging and abandoning "rules" for the "monster". A more poetic, metaphorical, surreal approach to film isn't yet accepted by the mainstream in the U.S.

However, even if you're not used to it, it's worth trying to suspend your normal preconceptions about films and give The Grudge a shot. This is a well written, well directed, well acted film, filled with unusual properties, such as the story interweaving a large number of "main characters" (which is done better here than the more episodic Ju-On 3), good cinematography, subtle production design touches (check out Gellar's clothes, which match the color and texture of the exterior of Emma's house, when Gellar first approaches), and beautifully effective horror material.

Even though it is more slowly paced that your average horror film of the past, the pacing usually enhances the eeriness, and there is no shortage of bizarre events to keep horror fans entertained. The supernatural premise of the film is absorbing, and based on interviews on the DVD with Shimizu, have prodded me to pay more attention to Japanese beliefs and folklore. Although the most interesting subtexts would probably arise with a more intimate knowledge of Japanese culture, it's interesting to ponder why so many Japanese horror films feature scary children and adults who look like scary children.

I subtracted one point for the film slightly veering into clichéd mystery/thriller territory with a "here's what really happened" flashback, but even that was fairly well done, and otherwise, this would have been a 10 out of 10.

Now that I've said all of the above, let me finish with a mini-rant: It's not that I'm anti-remake, but it is ridiculous that U.S. distributors and studios feel that we need remakes of foreign films to make them appropriate for consumption. The original versions of these films should just be playing in U.S. theaters in wide release. There is no need to present an almost identical film but just substituting white American actors for non-white or foreign actors. Yes, The Grudge is a fine film, but ultimately, I'd rather see something original using this talent, and be treated to the latest foreign horror films--not just Japanese, but also Indian, Spanish, Chinese, etc.--at my multiplex. In the hope that someone with some pull at the studios reads this, it is also more cost-effective to do this, as (1) you can completely avoid production costs, and simply make domestic distribution deals from which you receive profit, and (2) you can make money off of fans like myself who otherwise pick up the foreign film DVDs in foreign manufactured or even bootleg versions.
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10/10
I was pleasantly shocked
Danny24 October 2004
I went to this movie expecting an artsy scary film. What I got was scare after scare. It's a horror film at it's core. It's not dull like other horror films where a haunted house just has ghosts and gore. This film doesn't even show you the majority of the deaths it shows the fear of the characters. I think one of the best things about the concept where it's not just the house thats haunted its whoever goes into the house. They become haunted no matter where they are. Office buildings, police stations, hotel rooms... etc. After reading some of the external reviews I am really surprised that critics didn't like this film. I am going to see it again this week and am excited about it.

I gave this film 10 stars because it did what a horror film should. It scared the s**t out of me.
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1/10
Nail in the coffin for Japanese horror
udar555 February 2006
I hate to throw out lines like this, but in this case I feel like I have to: the American remake of THE GRUDGE is by far the worst film I have seen in theaters in the last 5 years. There, I said it. And now that I have gotten that out of my system, please let me explain why.

"When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury." That is the premise of THE GRUDGE and I will admit it sounds intriguing. Unfortunately, the filmmakers take it no further. Those who encounter the "curse" are indeed consumed by its fury and that is all you get. You want more? Well too bad. Some critics and fans are pointing out that the sole purpose of THE GRUDGE is to scare you. The problem is that when there is no plot to speak of, creepy images and sounds can only go so far. Director Takashi Shimizu, pulling a George Sluizer and remaking his own original film(s), valiantly attempts to build atmosphere in the first hour – by repeating the same scene over and over and over and over. It pretty much unfolds like this:

-person walks into house

-something flashes by the camera and/or a strange sound is heard

-person goes to investigate

-sound starts to get loud

-person sees a ghost

-loud scream and/or cat screech

-cut to black

Before the audience is even given a hint of plot, this exact same scenario unfolds 5 times in the first hour. The first time was actually somewhat creepy. Each subsequent use became laughable as the film went on. By the time the end of the film rolled around, my friend and I were laughingly wondering if this scene would end "with a loud scream and a cut to black." We were never proved wrong.

The film has no liner storyline, instead unfolding in a series of vignettes that leave the audience jumbled. I have no problem with non-linear storytelling when it is done right. The film jumps from time period to time period with no rhyme or reason. I haven't seen a movie in such a state since the opening of the theatrical version of HIGHLANDER 2. And this storytelling technique mars any sort of mystery that film could have possibly had. If you already know the ghosts have scared two characters to death, how is it shocking when their bodies are found in the attic? And why should we care when a detective tries to investigate the mysterious disappearances when we already know what happened to everyone?

Obviously greenlit the second the American version of THE RING made $15 million its first weekend, THE GRUDGE is nothing but calculated imitation disguised as an actual movie. The scariest things about THE GRUDGE are that it made $40 million dollars its first weekend and some people consider it the "scariest movie ever made." I wonder what happens to those who get consumed by the fury of paying to see THE GRUDGE?
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10/10
Hats off
Azrael26931 January 2005
Massive multiple chills down the spine! I'm surprised there's people who didn't like it! I saw it at 10 o'clock in the morning and still got scared stiff! And I've seen hundreds of thrillers/horror movies! For crying out loud,I'm 22!!! I mean, OK, voice acting, not particularly good, probably even b-movie-ish. But the genuine look of terror, the sound effects, the flow! From the very start, hitting you again and again with relentless, unforgiving, terrorising scenes! So many clichés yet none fails to surprise/scare! You know it's coming, it's coming, it's coming, BOO! and you still jump off the chair. Grab a pillow and a blanket, call your closest friend over and do not watch it at night! Hats off to the Japanese!
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misunderstood by too many people
bte686s16 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Grantes; it's not possible to make a movie anywhere near perfect, but this one has been so misunderstood that I created an account and am writing my first review ever in its defense.

If you don't like a movie that doesn't play by your rules (the characters must develop, the scenes must be sequential, ghosts can't leave their haunting grounds, any unresolved ending means a sequel...), then buy tickets to movies you know you'll like instead of getting disappointed and complaining. I don't mean to offend any of the readers or reviewers that thought badly of the movie, but the overwhelming negativity I found to be based more on false assumptions and adherence to non-universal traditions

--spoilers ahead--

For those who didn't pay enough attention and got confused, here are some things people missed that are a little essential for keeping up with the plot (in no particular order or completeness): Yoko's jaw, which she is later without, is the bloody chunk in the attic. The gasoline used to burn the house was brought in by the detective. The lighter--also to burn the house--was not the heroine's, it was her boyfriend's (who we did in fact see smoking in the Buddhist mourner scene). The spirits are not ghosts as we think of them; other reviews have gone into depth to explain that. The creepy hair is a Japanese spirit trademark, like doors closing themselves in American horror. Bill Pullman's suicide is explained very thoroughly throughout the movie, if you remember all the parts and link them together.

Another thing I would like to point out is the extreme differences between theater traditions around the world. Americans prefer a plot-based, character-driven experience. In Native American storytelling, in contrast, characters routinely change their names and appearances. Japanese kabuki theater purposefully avoided plot entirely. What I'm trying to say is that this movie is very easy to misunderstand when viewed in the American horror paradigm. There are thematic materials and deep traditions all over the place, and it really is a scary movie if you get into it and ignore the schoolchildren around you laughing at it, but if you don't pick up on (or at least accept) the deeper meanings then a lot of the experience is lost. The movie was (re)made for American audiences, so it isn't quite as quirkily Japanese as it could be; so just let the idiosyncrasies draw you in and then scare you ####less.
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6/10
Disastrous Remake.
nycritic15 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It helps seeing both the original, JU ON, and THE GRUDGE back to back to see why remakes just don't work most of the time and what one should never do in a horror film if the first version was already perfect. Rarely have they ever done so: except for Hitchcock's own re-telling of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH in 1956, most of the times they have failed miserably. This one retells the same story, eliminating two major plot arcs from the first (the three missing students who were at the house with the haunted detective's daughter, and Mariko's storyline who served to expand on the curse, here served by Bill Pullman's storyline), and adding a boyfriend to Sarah Michelle Gellar's Karen, as well as creating yet another brief role in the beginning -- the caretaker of the old lady, unseen in the first.

THE GRUDGE is no exception to the rule of the unnecessary remake: While it does have one or two minor moments of silent dread as when Clea duVall's character meets her fate in the haunted house, the use of black tendrils and shock moments don't quite help bring the real horror, and Sarah Michelle Gellar conveys absolutely nothing in her scene when she is found crouched in a corner by the dead old lady (Grace Zabriskie), which negates the intense blankness that one could see in Megumi Okina's harrowed face in the original. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was a joint effort to capitalize on the success of JU ON and bring it (quite badly) upon the more complacent and less demanding American public. And while some of the elements of the Sakei family tragedy answers some questions, the essence of horror is to leave these questions partly answered, or unanswered. This always makes the insanity of what happens even more haunting, unsettling.
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1/10
The Incredible shrinking audience.
grcane27 January 2005
I live in Switzerland and travel to Austria to see a movie in English language once a week. Its a fun thing to do because the film is always a 'Sneak' not yet on release film in Austria. Its also a surprise movie, so no-one knows what they are going to get till the curtain goes up. This is fine because it forces me to watch films I would never usually see out of choice. As always, the 'Sneak' was well attended with a starting audience of about 150. I was a bit doubt full about the film from the kick off, I mean, a lot of Japanese names on the opening credits and some non Japanese actors I never heard of... but I figured lets hang in and see what happens... Ten minutes into the movie, after a great deal of audience laughter the exodus started... twos and threes to start with then a steady flow with me almost wondering if there might be a fire back there when they found the jawbone in the roof space. As the final credits rolled a glanced over my shoulder (I like to sit in the front) and to my amazement saw that there were just 3 of us left! Thats right.. 3! I mean the move was bad... very bad.. but never in 40 years of regular movie going had I experienced anything like this. I found the effects passable at best, the direction a joke, the acting wooden and the script writer should do the honourable thing and fall on his sword... by the way.. if you saw the movie... don't you think the monster with the long lack hair and white skin looked familiar? Awooooooo!
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7/10
pretty good
Friskylime23 October 2004
so, being a fairly deep fan of horror movies, it's been a while since i've seen one that really made me jump (or fidget nervously.)

definitely going to get this on DVD when it comes out... a hell of a lot better than the ring. the thing that i don't get is that so many people that we talkd with after the movie thought that it was horrible, well, if that's what you think, then so be it... i know what i liked and it takes a fair amount to get me to actually feel scared, so i have to say that this one is worth watching.

now, you might be disappointed in the story if you need everything in a neat and tidy line, because the plot goes back an forth a little bit to help build the story (i think that if it was shown in chronological order, it would have ruined the whole thing.)

i'm actually glad that this movie had very little bloody messes in it... maybe the rest of you studio writers and whathaveyous will realize that you don't have to splash the red stuff all over the set to make people afraid.
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