The Grudge

The Grudge on Blu-ray

by Johnny Bray

After the success of The Ring, a remake of a Japanese horror film, there was no question that further remakes would follow. Enter The Grudge, which brought in the original Japanese director to lend some credibility, and threw in a popular horror actress from the western hemisphere to add some starpower.

It’s amazing how, after so few releases, we can already so clearly see the rapid decline of the genre.

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has moved to Japan with her sweetheart and, as a hospice student, is assigned to an elderly, seemingly catatonic woman living in a creepy house. She can sense something wrong right from the get-go, but quitting jobs on the first day is not the way to get better jobs. So, she sticks it out.

Once she finds a young boy stuck behind a taped-up wall, she begins to ask questions. Then the fertilizer hits the fan, and our heroine ends up in the hospital, more than a little frazzled. There’s definitely something going on inside that house…but that doesn’t mean that leaving the house will save you…

The movie whips from now to then and back to now and even further back to then without telling you. Pay close attention or you’ll be lost. Come to think of it, you’ll probably still be lost.

The film is set up well enough, with a pretty good opening, but is never quite sure where to go from there. It has a good vibe, and some sufficiently creepy moments, but even most of the scares are complete clichés (such as a cat jumping onscreen with a loud “rrrreeeoowwww”). It seems to be doing its darndest to be the next The Ring, but at least The Ring had an intriguing story that was easy to follow.

On one hand, The Grudge fails because it goes for the easy, visual scares instead of the much better psychological approach. On the other hand, the visuals here are much creepier than a lot of considerably less terrifying “horror” movies. For example, The Haunting remake is purely visual scares, completely foregoing the psychological in favor of zany effects (which, in the movie’s defense, are moderately effective in their own way). Films like The Sixth Sense work because they use mood and technique to build the tension.

Regardless, you could definitely do worse than watching The Grudge. It has a few creepy moments and an intriguing idea, even if the execution leaves a little to be desired. It pales in comparison to the still-best Japanese horror remake thus far: The Ring. So go watch The Ring instead.

Now on Blu-ray, The Grudge is presented in 1.85:1 1080p High Definition with English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. It has never looked or sounded better, but that doesn’t mean it’ll blow your mind. The picture is surprisingly murky, with a level of detail on par with the most average Blu-ray discs. The audio is very effective, thought, with rumbling bass lines and no major fluctuations (which can often hinder a film’s enjoyment).

There are two audio commentaries on the disc. The first, featuring producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, screenwriter Stephen Susco and cast members Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea Duvall, Kadee Strickland and Ted Raimi, is for the theatrical cut only. The second, available strictly on the extended cut, is by director Takashi Shimizu, producer Taka Ichise and actress Takako Fuji. The latter is in Japanese with English subtitles which – no offense to those involved – helps to keep it really, really boring. There are a few deleted scenes, some featurettes, and a couple of cheesy short films by director Shimizu.

The Grudge (Blu-ray), from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
98 minutes, 1.85:1 1080p HD; Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Kadee Strickland and Bill Pullman
Screenplay by Stephen Susco
Directed by Takashi Shimizu

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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