Retro Review: The Grudge

Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Karen, a foreign exchange student working at a Tokyo medical clinic that provides palliative care for its patients.

One day Karen hears that her co-worker Yoko hasn’t shown up for work and is asked by her supervisor Alex (Ted Raimi) to cover for Yoko.

When Karen arrives at the designated address she finds an elderly catatonic American woman named Emma (Grace Zabriskie) and the whole house in disarray.

As Karen pieces together what went on in the house she finds herself facing off against an evil and ancient curse, known as “The Grudge”.

What triggers such a curse? What is the meaning behind its awakening? And will Karen be able to figure it out before it swallows her whole?

The best way to describe “The Grudge” is that it is a cross between “Lost in Translation” and “The Amityville Horror”.

What makes it such an interesting horror film to watch is that for nearly 85% of the film there is no soundtrack and the film relies on the actors, creaks, nasal releases and echoes to deliver its horror.

This kind of horror film hasn’t probably been seen in quite sometime.

The film’s direction and overall subtleness reminded me a lot of old Hitchcock films.

Hitchcock probably would have loved Gellar as one of his leading ladies. The layout and feel is very Hitchcock but the film doesn’t ever reach the quality scares found in a lot of the old Hitchcock classics. It does deliver with a whole lot of creepiness, though.

The director and creator of “The Grudge”, Takashi Shimizu has been retelling this story from all sorts of angles for nearly four years now and this is his fifth film about the subject matter.

The Japanese horror legend started in 2000 with “Ju-On: The Curse” which spawned the four film Japanese series and this American remake.

In the film you can see that the director has been doing this along time. There seems to be no real effort in trying to explain itself as the film chugs along. Shimizu’s playing with the film’s linear direction is interesting but tends to take away from telling the story.

I liked Sarah Michelle Gellar’s very subtle and withdrawn approach to this character and that in a lot of ways helped me make the Hitchcock jump.

What I didn’t like was that Gellar was never really able to use her acting chops except with maybe facial expressions.

There are a lot of seemingly mimed expressions and gestures in this film.

I liked a lot of what “The Grudge” was trying to get across but felt it should have left more of an impact and had a genuine horrific Hitchcock thriller ending.

Instead it seems to end on an insincere Hollywood cliché.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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