THE GRUDGE (Takashi Shimizu, 2004)
The title cards for THE GRUDGE explain that when someone dies in a state of extreme anger or sadness, the emotion lingers in that place as a curse capable of harming the living. Sarah Michelle Gellar is Karen, an exchange student going to school in Japan. She helps at a care center, and one day she’s sent to an invalid American woman’s home, a place where strange things are happening.
Asian horror has enjoyed a renaissance the last few years. The American remakes are slowly arriving. First came THE RING, an above average creepfest, and now we get THE GRUDGE, which director Takashi Shimizu remade from his own film JU-ON. Eschewing plot and a linear timeline for a stylish exercise in mood, Shimizu sets the scenes with long silences and chilling images. This haunted house movie favors slow building terror over things jumping out of the dark, although the jump moments are effective too. Upon reflection, THE GRUDGE doesn’t add up to much. The back story isn’t especially surprising, and the characters lack dimension. Yet it works because Shimizu’s pacing and restraint eases us into the horror, like lobsters put into lukewarm water gradually raised to a boil.
(Review first aired on the October 26, 2004 NOW PLAYING)