HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

The Grudge

I’m compelled to shamefully clarify that I have yet to see Ju-On, the original Japanese horror film upon which The Grudge is based. Okay, scoff for a second while I regain composure.

This is not to say that this is unfamiliar territory, having screened a bevy of other Japanese horror films prior to last night’s screening.

The big news for horror fans in 2002 was the arrival of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, a remake of Ringu, by Hideo Nakata. This practice is not new ground for Hollywood, as mining foreign film for notably brilliant work and then snatching up the rights, hiring a new “all-American” cast and dubbing it an instant classic has become one of the defining traits of the new “studio” system.

In this case, studio means “watch the buzz” and “grab the rights.”

Verbinski’s film was a notable hit; actually that’s softening it a bit. The word-of-mouth response from American moviegoers was so huge that it ignited an immediate focus on all things filmic in the “horror” and “Asia” departments.

So this brings us back to The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Scary enough yet? You have no idea. However there are some soothing aspects to the re-creation process this go ‘round. First off, Takashi Shimizu, the original director behind the Ju-On series, was retained for the remake.

Then word gets out that horror uber-meister and Spidey helmer Sam Raimi is involved in the U.S. update, and that makes two plusses in its corner. But Buffy? As opening credits progressed it occurs to me that not only is Raimi on board, but his old Evil Dead partner-in-crime Rob Tapert is riding shotgun and his brother Ted (best known for his work as a Fake Shemp) is along for the ride in the backseat. Things just got interesting.

Apparently Raimi is a big fan of Ju-On, and it shows in the production team’s choice for Director and the film’s adherence to the style, location, and feel that makes Japanese horror films so intriguing. All of the staples are here, the use of technology to comment on our societal reliance on the inanimate, and my personal favorite, the use of mirrors to reflect what could or could not be lurking around corner and into the souls of these tortured characters.

Right from the start the opening sequence grabs a hold tightly, and the film will not let go until its final moments. The absorbing aspect that makes The Grudge so engrossing is its complicated narrative structure, which just so happens to be the trait that critics are taking it to task on.

The film begins as a series of vignettes, introducing us to a string of characters that are each related, although we have no idea how or why. Bill Pullman lands an opening as Peter that will be discussed for sometime. Unexpected, jaw-dropping, this is what good Japanese horror is about.

We finally meet Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a young nurse living in Japan with her student boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr). We learn that she accompanied him in to Japan because he has always dreamed of studying there, and she loves him enough to follow in tow.

Karen is picked to cover a shift for a co-worker named Yoko (a quick scan of the cast list at IMDB.com fails to turn up the actresses name, my apologies to her), when she fails to show up for work the next day. Yoko’s job is to care for the aging Emma (Grace Zabriskie) who happens to live in a possessed house.

What Karen finds in the house is not the beginning of the story. It is rather an introduction to the story from her point of intersection with the events that have transpired thus far. The vignette-style continues, inter-cutting the past with present, showing us how Emma arrived at the house, her family and their individual fates, all while Karen learns more about the house and its inhabitants.

This is a huge advantage for the film, because just as audiences feel they have their collective heads wrapped around the events transpiring, something occurs which complicates the theory and leaves them wondering what will come next.

Not to drudge into the details; instead, let's clarify how Japanese horror transcends the classically clichéd motifs found in modern horror films these days. To do this, examine the constructs of horror itself.

First of all, we have the introduction to the evil that will plague the characters in the film. This is a pivotal aspect in horror film, because it must effectively reveal how the evil works, but remain mysterious enough to hold intrigue and mask any weaknesses the predatory evil may have. We must leave those to the hero (or in many cases heroine) to figure out.

Secondary, there is always candid expository sequences in which the evil targets the hero, and subsequently he or she must investigate the causes behind the attacks that are picking off other characters in the film.

In the end, we find resolve. Our hero finds a way to exploit weakness and overcome evil, usually by finding a newspaper clipping or some other overlooked clue by others in the process of their investigation.

The Grudge contains all of these aspects, but it doesn’t play fair with these standards and that is a good thing. Audiences are used to seeing characters back themselves into precarious situations, usually to the extent that we take comfort in thinking to ourselves, “if it were me I would have never done that…”

This mode of comfort is established early on in The Grudge, but it doesn’t last for long, and this makes the film all the more frightening. Japanese horror in general utilizes the clichés of modern horror to induce its scares, and it works. Things occur when its least expected, and the tired tricks are often turned on their ear.

At one point in the film, as a young caretaker examines the haunted house, we are presented with a common horror dilemma. A creaky noise is heard, it seems to be coming from the closet. The character is faced with two choices: 1) run like mad from the house, or 2) investigate the closet.

Choosing the latter is prerequisite in a horror film, but in most cases it turns out to be a rat, or a cat, or some other furry creature that is revealed for shock. This is used to relax the audience for a moment until the character turns to find something more frightening hiding just off-screen, or creeping up behind them, which devours them whole and produces the real scare.


Usually yes. This time it is a cat, but it’s not what is out of eyeshot when the cat is revealed that causes the true scare, it’s what’s holding the cat that sends a chill down our spine.

Post-Script: Many rejoice in shielding their eyes from films like this, seeking solace so they may find a way get unfettered rest when it comes time to sleep. The Grudge manages to fuse its images onto the backs of a viewer’s eyelid, and thanks to the excellent sound work, hearing in many cases is far more frightening then actually seeing.


Mario Anima

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites