The Grudge (2004) is much like The Ring (2002) in the sense that I could watch both movies over and over again. Both are American remakes of Japanese horror films with similar themes: innocent people die unjustly and a horrible curse is born. In the story of The Grudge, the spirits of those who died are damned to perpetually haunt the location where the pain was inflicted upon them. Entrapped in the same house for eternity, the spirits administer the pain that they have felt onto anyone who comes in contact with the house or the souls imprisoned within. As the spirits of the dead manipulate the characters in the film, you begin looking for ways that this curse can be broken; but in true sequel-promoting style, the curse prevails and you are left guessing at the fate of our heroine, an American nurse named Karen Davis (played by one of our prized Hothouse Hotties, Sarah Michelle Gellar).
The Grudge was directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed the original Japanese version of this film entitled, Ju-on (2002). This might be why the American version tactfully and respectfully observes the original Japanese horror techniques. Since the American remake is set in Japan, it seems all the more appropriate to stick to the original folklore.
Now, this movie isn’t as creepy as The Ring, which quite literally scared the hell out of me when I first saw it. I mean, I was a little bit afraid of my television for a couple of weeks afterwards. Admit it, you all felt the same way. But like The Ring, The Grudge makes use of imagery, music, and sound in a way that is both terrifying and beautiful. If you closed your eyes throughout the entire film, you would notice that the dialogue is quite sparse, which makes the images and sounds all the more amplified. For instance, there is the repeated image of the long, black hair belonging to the tormented spirit of Kayako Saeki, an ordinary housewife who met an untimely and brutal death. Her pale face and glaring eyes are another recurring image that will have you looking about your bedroom reassuringly before shutting off the lights for the night.
The sounds in this film are equally as important. Kayako’s guttural moan (which I can imitate exactly and freak out anyone who has seen this film, to my delight) haunts our heroine and draws attention to Kayako’s every appearance, even when seen on a security camera, which is one of the most frightening scenes in the entire movie. And the call of a ghostly cat recurs throughout the film, which sometimes blends with the cries of Kayako’s deceased son, Toshio. Toshio’s spirit is haunting, but painfully sad. He appears as both a pitiable young boy and a wide-eyed ghost as the movie flashes back through time to tell the story of the Saekis’ unfortunate demise and the beginning of this terrible curse.
This film is more than just a ghost story or a mere haunted house tale. It is a story of jealousy, heartache, betrayal and regret. The emotions that prevailed when the tragedy occurred remain in the house and surround it with a melancholy that is reflected in the imagery, the colours, the music, and even the gloomy weather. When Karen Davis is assigned to work at the ill-fated house as a nurse to an elderly woman living inside, she quickly learns that there is something truly wrong with the place; but will she be quick enough to save herself and the one that she loves from the wrath of the spirits within?
Watch to find out. Or watch just to drool over the sexy Sarah Michelle Geller. Either way, it won’t disappoint.
Review by Julia Sakas
Connect with Julia: @MorningKaya