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The Grudge (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew commentary. 'Under the Skin' – a medical explanation of fear response in film. The Birth of The Grudge.

HOLLYWOOD appears to have run out of inspiration for what makes a good horror film at the moment.

Thank God, then, for Japan, which seems to have cornered the market on scaring the wits out of viewers.

While The Exorcist is beginning to feel like a tired franchise, the likes of The Ring and, now, The Grudge, appear to have plenty of ideas on how to chill people.

Maybe it's because they don't really conform to a stock set of Hollywood horror rules, in that there is no stalker waiting in the shadows, or head-spinning demons just waiting to hurl green vomit at you.

The Ring made watching the video scary, and The Grudge... well, try walking into a dark room after you've seen it.

They may both be remakes of better films, but there is no denying that the American versions of these Japanese classics now command a very strong position in the marketplace.

What's more, this latest remake (of Ju-on: The Grudge) has been done by the director of the original himself, Takashi Shimizu, who now gets to scare people with a bigger set of toys at his disposal.

The Grudge finds Sarah Michelle Gellar as young American student, Karen, a newcomer to Tokyo, who suffers the misfortune of being sent by a service as a caregiver to a fellow American family.

Arriving at their house, she finds little sign of the occupants, except for a seriously catatonic grandmother, and a creepy little Japanese boy trapped in an upstairs closet.

The boy in question seems frightened at first, but then unleashes a terrifying force which places a curse on whoever witnesses it - although to say any more would be to ruin the objective.

As a result, a terrified Karen must reconstruct the grisly history of the house, aided by the Japanese police, in a bid to stop 'the grudge' from claiming her as its next victim.

Her subsequent investigations lead to the apparent suicide of Bill Pullman's former professor, who seems to share a similar connection to the house in question.

What makes The Grudge so memorable, however, is the truly unpredictable nature of the evil that lurks within, as well as some clever touches from the director.

Far from feeling like a Hollywood production, the movie maintains a distinctly Japanese feel and actually plays like an ensemble piece, rather than a star vehicle for Gellar.

As such, viewers can never quite be sure who is going to survive, and from which direction their next jolt is going to come from.

Shimizu also keeps things fast-moving (even if the opening 20 minutes play as if they're on a loop), so that you can virtually count the seconds between each jump, and explains very little in the process, thereby forcing the viewer to play catch up and think about it for a very long time afterwards.

And while there is undoubtedly a lot of fun to be had in watching the terror unfold in a darkened cinema with countless other viewers, try not turning the lights on at home when you get back afterwards.

The Grudge is that rare type of chiller - one which leaves you genuinely creeped out and checking under the bed in its aftermath.

It could also mark Shimizu as a major player on the Hollywood circuit and should do wonders for Gellar's career in the wake of that Scooby-Do nonsense.

It's the film to see this Halloween!

 

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