Definitely ranking near the top of pointless remakes, The Grudge is the Hollywood version of Ju-On, a Japanese horror movie that was made way back in... 2003! Yes, this a remake of a one year old movie, and, to really make things ridiculous, director Takashi Shimizu has returned to "reinvent" his own movie, along with some of the same actors who played the ghosts in the original.
What's wrong with Takashi Shimizu I do not know, but I know he's basically remade the same movie four times now. Way back in 2000, he created a direct-to-video horror movie and a sequel that were so successful he decided to make theatrical releases for the two films in 2003. I've only seen the original theatrical version Ju-On, but I can easily say that one is enough. Don't get my wrong - I found Ju-On to be rather entertaining and even freaky at times, but still - one is enough. Of course, production companies seem to be obsessed with horror sequels... unfortunately, The Grudge is not a sequel. It is a pointless, pointless, pointless remake that pales in comparison to the original.
What's wrong with The Grudge? For starters, it is the exact same movie as the original Japanese version, minus some cast changes and a few minor scene altercations. If you've seen the original - and I suggest you do (you can probably buy it on Amazon for less than it costs to go to the theater) - you'll know exactly what's going to happen 99% of the time. I'll admit there was one shot that made me jump, but we'll save that for another review. Anyway, the plot is almost identical. A nurse (this time she's played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) goes into a house that is haunted by ghosts. Meanwhile, the movie jumps around in time to show others who have fallen victim to the house's curse - a.k.a. the grudge! The plot is rather simple, though it appears more complicated as Shimizu enjoys to show things out of chronological order.
More problematic than the fact that the movie is so similar to the original version is that the scenes that are changed are not as good. You can tell that certain parts of the movie were changed for the sake of making changes; perhaps everything should have been left alone. The Grudge also lacks some of the subplots the original had to make time for its boring main character, played by Gellar. The original Ju-On also suffered a similar fate in that the story lacks a clear lead protagonist. For the most part, the stars of the movie are the little boy and his dead mother, not any of the innocent people who fall victim to their wrath. For Hollywood's sake, however, a few more minutes are given to Gellar in attempt to define a clear-cut lead character, but the results are just dismal. She still lacks the screen time to allow us to feel anything for her character, and, more than anything else, I just didn't care. "Buffy" fans beware - Gellar doesn't do any kicking, punching or anything else. She just walks around in the house and looks scared. She could have at least kicked the ghost in the head...
Another noticeable disappointment is the horror itself. The original built more suspense and mystery, whereas this version just seems interested in making people jump. That's fine, but there are so many "jump" scenes in the movie it begins to lose its touch after a while. Personally, given the fact this movie has no plot, the story works better under low budget conditions. The original was scary, but not especially intelligent - however, it didn't matter because it had a low budget feel to it. This version has Hollywood dollars behind it (and a recognizable cast), which makes everything seem a bit cheesy.
So, basically, The Grudge is just a lame attempt to make money. Shimizu clearly doesn't seem to mind, however, as he appears to be fixated on making Ju-On movies for his entire career.
All that whining aside, if you've never seen the original Japanese version - and most of you probably haven't - The Grudge probably will be scary enough. If I had seen Ringu before I saw the Americanized version The Ring, I probably would have thought The Ring was God-awful, too. Still, whereas The Ring was a well-made movie, The Grudge lacks the goods to make a memorable horror picture. There is really no reason to see this movie when you can go rent Ju-On and watch the same little boy and the same woman kill stupid people.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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