After the success of The Ring, the Americanized version of the Japanese horror classic Ringu, it was only a matter of time before more Americanized versions of Japanese horror classics would hit the theaters here. So here we have The Grudge, based on Ju-On: The Grudge, and they retained the same director from the Japanese version, but unfortunately didn't retain his writing skills, taking the script from a first-time screenwriter. It's one of those horror flicks, with some great white-knuckle thrills, that you just have to see in the theater...but you might want to see it at matinee prices.
The flick starts out in a Tokyo apartment complex, with a hot girl in bed, and an older American (Bill Pullman) standing on the balcony, acting strange. The girl starts talking to him, but he doesn't respond. Well, he does respond, but by falling off the balcony onto the concrete. Spooky, eh? We then cut to 3 years later (a fact we don't find out until the middle of the movie), and after another spooky killing, we are in a similar situation from before: a hot girl in bed (Gellar) but the American, a younger one at that (Behr) is looking for a clean shirt, using the old guy maxim of the "sniff test." Everything seems hunky-dory. They're both students at some Tokyo university, him studying arcitechture, her studying nursing. He scoots off to a test while she ends up going solo for the first time, as a nurse for an elderly woman. What she doesn't know is she's subbing for the girl who got killed at that house (the other spooky killing, remember?) and when she gets to the house, she is soon aware that not all is right in this seemingly quaint house.
One of the main problems here is predictability. Rookie screenwriter Steven Susco reveals too much in the middle of the movie, therefore making the "revelation" near the end practically useless, because you can surmise from the not-so subtle clues he leaves, what has transpired to cause all this. He starts out fine, giving us some nice hints here and there, but in the middle he blows his wad and basically ruins the surprise. You keep waiting for something else to happen, to add more to the suspense, but nothing really happens. It doesn't come full-circle at all here, giving us a shoddy ending, and only vaugely answering the questions posed in the story. The premise here is very good, which is when someone dies with a grudge, it carries over to whoever else comes in contact with any aspect of the death, but since this is a remake, you can't really give Susco credit for that now, can you? I haven't seen Ju-On, so I don't know how much is similar to that movie, but Susco does have a nice story arc here and a decent plot, even though he sort of ruins it in the middle.
When I first heard about this flick, I was rather surprised to see Sarah Michelle Gellar in the lead role here. Sure, she's a decent actress, and plenty hot to boot, but she hasn't really done any horror, and no, I'm NOT counting I Know What You Did Last Blah Blah Blah. This seemed like more of a serious, balls-to-the-wall horror flick, and while I guess it is, I really couldn't see her doing well here. She does do fairly well, however, conveying a much better range than I thought she had and capturing the character very nicely. The problem is that she doesn't get much help here. They spread out the "supporting" roles a lot, meaning there are a lot of supporting characters, and, collectively, they get a lot of screen time, but, individually, they don't get much at all. There are roles just barely above a cameo from Bill Pullman, the super-fine KaDee Strickland, the talented Clea DuVall and the dull Jason Behr and a few others not even worth mentioning. It seemed that the characters could've very easily been condensed and there just wasn't that much of a need for all of these characters. They could've eliminated some characters and focused more on the Japanese "spooks" more than they did, because we didn't see nearly as much of them as we should've.
Director Takashi Shimizu, who helmed the original Ju-On: The Grudge, has a true eye for horror. His direction is probably the best part of the movie, with some increibly suspenseful scenes. I kept wondering what this movie would've been like with his direction and The Ring screenwriter Ehren Kruger penning the script, because that would've probably been a wonderful combination. Still, Shimizu's direction is nicely done and his touch with horror will probably be utilized in more American vehicles after his fine direction here.
The Grudge is a movie about taking out angst from the past on the present, through supernatural means, of course. It has some very tense parts a nice performance from Gellar and great direction, although it's not strung together very well. It's pretty good...until you start thinking about it.