[box cover]

The Grudge

Thanks to the success of 2002's The Ring, the rush to revive the horror film industry through the practice of remaking Japanese cult films struck again with 2004's The Grudge. Takashi Shimizu, the writer and director of 2000's Ju-on and its subsequent follow-ups, was brought on board by producer Sam Raimi to recreate his series of films and direct-to-video vignettes with an American cast. With a reworked screenplay coming from newcomer Stephen Susco, the original tale of a cursed house has been given a bit more narrative, but the disjointed timeline remains intact. At its heart, The Grudge is the tale of a haunted house, possessed by the spirits of a family that suffered a terrible fate inside its walls. The resulting horror afflicts anyone unlucky enough to enter the house as the curse spreads from one victim to the next. As the film opens, it's 2001, and Peter (Bill Pullman) jumps to his death from his Tokyo apartment. Just as suddenly, it's 2004, and Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American exchange student has been assigned as a caretaker to an older American woman who is suffering from some mental trauma. The woman and her son have recently moved into the old home of the Saeki family (played by the cast of the original), where a great tragedy took place in 2001. The scenes intertwine in opposite timelines, with Gellar's arc moving forward and the story of the Saeki family and their relationship with Peter unveiling itself in reverse through the eyes of the Williams family, until both intersect in the conclusion. The Japanese flavor of The Grudge comes in the form of the suspenseful discovery of the source of the curse. Instead of effects and outlandish gore (although there is a bit of both), the psychology of fear is what's being explored, and the fates of the doomed characters is left mostly in the imagination of the viewer. Fundamentally, the remake is quite similar to the original. Where is suffers most is in its taming down of the ultimate cause of the "grudge" itself for the more sensitive Western palette. Sadly, the resulting conclusion is fairly obvious from the outset. Given the relatively recent release of Shimizu's original and the broad similarities found here (with the exception of the non-Japanese cast members), it's hard to see the allure of this version over the original. The resulting film desperately wants to keep its Japanese tone intact while catering to an American audience, and with its 91-minute running time suffering from the additional baggage of a larger cast, it struggles to maintain the spirit of the original work. The house simply loses some of its terror in the translation. Columbia TriStar presents The Grudge in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A commentary is provided with Gellar, producer Sam Raimi, screenwriter Stephen Susco, and several of the cast members, and the jovial track provides some info that will amuse fans. "A Powerful Rage", a five part "making-of" documentary, clocks in at 47 minutes and is the standard fare of behind-the-scenes takes and self-congratulatory interviews. Finally, "Under the Skin" is a 12-minute discussion on the effect fear has on the brain. Keep case.
—Scott Anderson

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