Director: Takashi Shimizu
Writer: Takashi Shimizu, Stephen Susco
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman
Running Time: 92 min.
So stop me if you’ve heard this before. Sarah Michelle Gellar walks into a Japanese haunted house, and almost gets attacked by demons. She’s a nurse who happens to be working abroad and living with a whacky family. Unlike The Ring remake, which at least tried to add some characterization which was missing from the Japanese version, this film is just the exact same idea, but with a gaijin as the lead. (Foreigner for those not in the know.) What was once a movie focusing on the trials and travails of a harried social services worker now becomes a travelogue in which the lead tries to show her tolerance, but gives in to her inner xenophobe, and thinks, “Dem Japs are weird!” (While this method of interaction was popular in the overrated Lost in Translation, it’s annoying to people like myself who actually want to see movies about Japan featuring Japanese doing Japanese things. Not movies where the Japanese are eyed under the microscope like Mondo Cane.)
So how’s the actual horror? Well imagine if you just popped Ju On in your dvd player and hit the fast forward button, and you have The Grudge. But one would think that with MTV-style editing, it’d actually be much more enjoyable, since even the arthouse fans hate sitting through slow Japanese flicks. Unfortunately, it’s actually slower than the original, since the original compensated with excellent suspense and sympathetic characters (i.e. “hotter chicks”). This one feels like a drag, because the dark cloudy stuff in the original takes the foreground in this version, rather than the background as in the original; so instead of the ectoplasm creeping behind the leads (and you the viewer), it’s in-your-face and trying to impress you with its knowledge of performance art.
Since most of the flicks Gellar has starred in have been absolute crap, and since I don’t watch Xena the Vampire Slayer, I only have The Grudge to evaluate her, and frankly, I think her performance is mediocre. She’s just going through the motions, and gives a weaker emotional performance than Gillian Anderson. So I guess you can call The Grudge a case of selling-out, since it seems like Shimizu is just basically phoning in his scenes. Or perhaps like most Asian filmmakers, his work got screwed over by an American committee in post. I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I do know is that it’s given me a grudge against crappy remakes.
Ningen’s Rating: 5/10