Theater-going takes a great deal of preparation for me; I need the coat with the hidden snack pockets on, and need to make sure that I don't make last year's mistake and walk past a dog on a leash outside the theater with a ham sandwich in my pocket. Thus prepared, I went to see The Grudge tonight.
Recommend this product?
I wouldn't bother to put on the capa de bocados (coat of snacks) for this again. Standard horror-movie fare it was, but it needs definite work.
In what is essentially a remake of the 2003 Japanese thriller "Ju-on: The Grudge", Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Karen, an American foreign exchange college student in Japan with her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr)who also does volunteer work at the university Care Center, helping shut-ins and providing home care for infirm citizens, who unfortunately takes what becomes the most terrifying substitute assignment of her life.
Yet the movie doesn't start there. It begins with "Peter", a university professor, (Bill Pullman)jumping off a balcony to fall to his death. The scene then switches to Yoko,(Takako Fuji)another Care Center volunteer arriving at the home of an American family living in Japan to take care of their nearly catatonic mother. A strange noise is heard in an unused room, and she investigates, and, as a black cat jumps out at her, she is dragged to her death by an unseen entity.
The scene then switches to our introduction of Karen and Doug, and Karen's assignment to the home of Matthew and Jennifer Williams,(William Mapother and Clea DuVall)the home that Yoko had been assigned to, where she dissapeared. Alex, the head of the Center tells Karen only that Yoko did not show up that morning. Karen meets the infirm mother and finds a door in the house taped shut. Upon investigating, she finds a creepy child who will only tell her his name, and a black cat, plus several torn photographs and a mysterious notebook referring to a relationship with a an named Peter. The photographs show the boy and a pair of adults, one of whom has her face cut out of each picture.
Returning to her client, Karen reaches her just as a sinister black shadow making a throaty rumbling detaches itself from the surrounding and attacks.
Scene shifts to Matthew Williams' sister Susan, calling her brother from work that same evening and getting no answer. On her way home, Susan is spooked by sinister noises and creepy shadows. Reaching home, she is attacked by the spooky entity in her own apartment. The scene shifts again to the Williams family buying the house, and the mother encountering an evil force.
Scene shift again, and Karen is coping with the strange things she has witnessed, and being told of the sinister history of the house she has been in. According to a police detective, three years previously, the owner murdered his wife and son, and killed himself. The son is identical to the little boy Karen has seen in the house. The detective tells her that according to legend, a soul killed in while in a rage can not completely depart; part of it remains to kill again and again anyone who comes in contact with it. It never forgives and never forgets. Apparently two detectives dissapeared while investigating the original murder, and the detective telling her the legend himself falls victim to the evil in the house.
That's the basic plot. Karen finds herself haunted by this evil force that torments her with sinister visions of a monsterous barely human entity stalking her, and a feral "Cat child" that may be the dead boy.
The plot has very little to hold it together beyond that, and dialog is minimal and mostly unmemorable. The scene shifts between past events and the present crisis are done very abruptly and without explanation and hinder development as much as they should help.
Where the movie succeeds are in what I call the "sudden jump scenes". A creepy rattling moan, or ocassionally, the yowl of a cat, announce the approaching evil force, then suddenly BANG! The ugly, haunting creature is right in your face, and you're halfway out of your seat. Once you've had a chance to settle down somewhat, it hits the viewer again...then again...then again, and if you're a high-strung individual (which thankfully I'm not) it may be time to change your pants. Eerie moments also contain visions of the ghostly boy glimpsed at a distance but slowly getting closer. Music builds to a crashing crescendo during these moments and backs off to a gentle background at other times.
The plot is never fully resolved. Karen torches the house, yet the evil is still very much active and stalking her.
Sarah Michelle Gellar carries the acting as Karen. She's a level-headed student who has been frightened out of her wits, yet she is determined to find out what has happened and what she can do about it. Beyond that, Jason Behr, Bill Pullman, and the others are in the movie for the sole purpose of getting killed, and their characters reflect that in lack of depth or meaningful dialog. Behr and Pullman particularly have done better; this simply wasn't the vehicle for them.
The Grudge definitely has its weaknesses, with the poorly constructed plot being the main flaw in the ointment, yet it packs a punch in the "sudden jumps" and the catastrophic tension building hits the high notes easily, and Sarah Michelle Gellar fits her role. I can recommend it on the strength of those, yet I wouldn't bother with the theaters for this; wait for the video and save a few bucks. Incontinence supplies are a good idea for those who can't handle the sudden freaky moments sprinkled liberally throughout the film.
Yours until I start hearing creepy noises in the attic,
Hugh U. Kidden
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