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The Grudge

The Grudge on DVD

The Grudge leaves as many unanswered questions as a Democratic Party press conference.

At only 91 minutes, it manages to raise 100,000 questions in your head and answer about 3 of them.

And not the most important three, either…

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has moved to Japan with her sweetheart and, as a hospice student, is assigned to an elderly, almost mute woman living in a creepy house. The woman's normal caregiver has not shown up for work that day, so Karen just needs to fill in. She can feel something is wrong with the house from the moment she walks in, but opts to do her job nonetheless.

Once she finds a young boy stuck behind a taped-up wall, she begins to ask questions (and so do we). Not long after that, she leaves the house and we think everything is going to be fine. But when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is left behind. It never forgives, it never forgets. And just because you leave the house, doesn’t mean the evil force won’t find you.

As is typical of Japanese films like this, The Grudge 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.

The Grudge just wants to show people getting terrorized by this evil force that won’t let up, not caring that the premise goes against everything people know about ghosts and spirits, even the most violent ones. For example, it’s clearly known that spirits (vengeful or otherwise) almost always stay in one place. If a spirit does move, it follows a specific individual usually in their early teens, and pretty much leaves everyone else alone. Of course, since it’s debatable that ghosts even exist, The Grudge relies on this fact to take things to the next level.

If you’re looking for a good scare, watch The Ring. The Grudge is far too much of a mishmash to be anything but forgettable. It’s worth a watch once, but to think on it too much will only cause an aneurysm.

Both the picture and sound on the DVD are only slightly above average. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, there’s not really anything good or bad you could say about the video quality. It’s pretty clean and crisp, with minimal foreign artifacts, but actors’ faces can seem drowned out by lighting techniques, and skin detail looks a tad bit off.

The Grudge is the kind of film that benefits from a 5.1 system to scare the audience (such as the cat’s meow starting in the back corner of the room and jumping to the front), but it just doesn’t get used enough here to make it worthwhile. Dialogue also seems very quiet at points, to the extent that you have to turn the volume up considerably to hear what everybody is saying.

Extras include an audio commentary by Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Sarah Michelle Gellar and a few others. It’s a thoroughly entertaining track, featuring lots of jokes and amusing anecdotes, but it’s a little too lively for a horror movie (how’s that for a lame complaint?). “A Powerful Rage” is a 47-minute making of documentary that covers everything from pre-to-post production. It’s very extensive, featuring plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. “Under the Skin” is a short featurette on medical explanations of fear response in film. It examines the relationship between scary movies and the brain. It’s pretty interesting, but not very engaging.

Finally, we get a bunch of trailers for new and not so new movies from Columbia Tristar.

The Grudge, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
91 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Kadee Strickland with Clea Duvall and Bill Pullman
Produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Taka Ichise
Screenplay by Stephen Susco, Directed by Takashi Shimizu


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