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Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an exchange student living in Japan, studying social work. When her colleague Yoko (Yoko Maki) doesn't show up for work, Karen is sent as her replacement to care for an elderly American patient Emma (Grace Zabriskie), who lives with her son Matthew (William Mapother) and his wife Jennifer (Clea DuVall). On arrival, she finds the house in total disarray and woman in a coma. When she investigates the strange sounds she hears upstairs, Karen is confronted by a mysterious and terrifying supernatural force. A force which has also impacted on her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr), Emma's daughter Susan (KaDee Strickland) and English University Professor Peter (Bill Pullman).

Review by Louise Keller:
It has not taken long for writer/director Takashi Shimizu's Japanese horror thriller Ju-On to be remade as an English-language co-production, and the response has indicated little has been lost in translation. The Ring, the remake from the highly successful Ringu franchise, appears to have paved the way for a whole new strain of Japanese-style horror. And there are certainly echoes, parallels and commonalities, including its Japanese producer Taka Ichise who is credited with giving Shimizu his big chance.

The Grudge is genuinely creepy and much of the disorientation of the characters (and our own) comes from the fact it is set in Japan, adding the fish-out-of-water elements to an already chilling premise. As for the curse itself, which results from a death so violent, that it lurks around as an invisible force, enveloping everyone who enters the premises where the death took place, there is no doubt that cultural implications add to the impact. The key to making the hairs on the back of neck stand up, however, comes from director Shimizu's ability to create a chilling and unsettling mood.

There's what we see, what we don't see and what we imagine we see. There's a stillness in the air and the silences are like punctuation - making us wait. The sounds we hear are disquieting. The ticking of the clock becomes the beating of our heart, as every shadow, reflection, squeak and tinkling sounds take their toll. There are footprints leading nowhere, ominous cobwebs, opaque glass, a screeching black cat, a small boy and the haunting face of a Japanese woman with long, black hair and oriental eyes that are rounded by fear.

The Grudge is most enjoyable without too much analysis. It is after all, simply a variation on a successful theme. The performances are all adequate, and the fans probably won't mind that Sarah Michelle Gellar's innocent Karen has only two expressions - surprised and scared. And reprising their roles from the original film, are Japanese actors Takako Fuji and Yuya Ozeki as the female ghost and little boy. But it's the opening scene with Bill Pullman's middle-aged University professor that grabs our attention, making us dive with him headfirst into the horrors of what is to come.

I like the sense of anonymity that the film generates, as Karen is caught up in Tokyo rush hour, with swarms of people crossing the busy intersections. By the time she has made her way through the back streets, map in hand, up a deserted path where fallen leaves give an occasional flutter, we are ready to enter the cold and foreboding house where an invisible mantle of evil spreads its wings.

The past and the present are woven together effectively, reaching a startling climax when the past actually does catch up with the present. It's as though time has momentarily stopped and we watch the events through Karen's wide-eyed amazement. There is no doubt the filmmakers of The Grudge are counting their money in advance; we know without any doubt from the closing scene that a sequel is not far away.

DVD special features include an audio commentary as well as a handful of featurettes.

March 3, 2005

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CAST: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman

PRODUCER: Doug Davison, Takashige Ichise, Roy Lee, Robert G. Tapert

DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu

SCRIPT: Stephen Susco (Takashi Shimizu's film Ju-on: The Grudge)


EDITOR: Jeff Betancourt

MUSIC: Christopher Young


RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary ; A Powerful Rage: Behind The Grudge (6 featurettes) ; The Birth of The Grudge Myth of the Ju-On ; Culture Shock: The American Cast In Japan ; Designing The Grudge House ; A New Direction: Understanding Takashi Shimizu ;Under the Skin

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 3, 2005

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