By Celeste Meiffren
photo courtesy of COLUMBIA PICTURES
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in "The Grudge," which made $40 million last weekend. Brilliant strategy to release it near Halloween.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 28, 2004
There were three reasons I did not want to see this film after seeing the previews. First, it has Sarah Michelle Gellar. Second, it's PG-13. Third, it's called "The Grudge." I thought that there was no way this movie could be good or scary. How wrong I was.
"The Grudge" is the American version of the Japanese film "Ju-On." Think of "The Ring" versus "Ringu." "The Ring" stands on its own as a scary movie, and so does "The Grudge." And while their original versions may be scarier, the American versions aren't much worse - I don't care what any film student tries to tell me.
"The Grudge" is based on a principle of Japanese folklore suggesting that when people are killed in an act of rage or passion, those emotions remain anchored to the place where they were killed. In this instance, it takes place in a house in Tokyo. The spirits of the murdered family will terrorize and kill anyone who steps foot into the house. The evil lives in the walls.
Enter Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American student working as a nurse for a sick old woman who now occupies the house. Karen must unlock the mystery before the spirits kill her and everyone around her.
Gellar was not as wretched as I thought she would be. She did not bring anything fresh or interesting to the character, but at least she could act scared. Director Takashi Shimizu paces the film brilliantly. He slowly peels away the story through flashbacks and sprinkles of important plot points, so that the audience stays compelled throughout the film. It's a sort of jigsaw puzzle way of storytelling. The audience can never guess the twists or the ending. It's best not to try.
But without giving too much away, I will say that there is nothing scarier than evil children. It is uncanny how something that should be so innocent and harmless can be so frightening. "The Grudge" has such a character, and, like in "The Ring," she provides many of the chills.
There is a never a dull moment in "The Grudge." The psychological tension does not let up until the very end. Intertwined with that tension are startling images and music, but the scariest moments, as with most scary movies, come when there is no music at all. My stomach was churning with anticipation, and "The Grudge" delivered.
"The Grudge" has taught me a lot. First, it has taught me to never judge a film by its star, name or rating. Second, a remake isn't necessarily worse than the original. And finally, it has taught that even the covers are an inadequate hiding place.