Since the success of the remake of The Ring, Hollywood has stood up and took notice of the Japanese horror scene. The next Asian remake coming our way is The Grudge. Sam Raimi was supposedly so impressed by it that he decided to produce it personally. The same director of the original will be back at the helm for the American version. Before I go onto the review, I am going to give you a bit of the history around the original. Ju-on which it’s known by in Asia, actually began as a pair of low budget TV movies released in 2000. After its initial success the same filmmaker directed bigger budgeted remakes of both films for theatrical release. I got the chance to see the original remake at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The sequel remake has just been released in Japan. After viewing The Grudge, I clearly understood what all the hype is all about.
The story focuses around your average everyday house in which a brutal death of a family happened in the past. The former inhabitants’ ghosts begin to terrorize anyone who dares to live there or who simply walks through its door. The film is more structure-based than story driven. What follows is a series of set pieces in which the family of ghosts wreck havoc on all its prey.
There is not much beyond the premise. But what they make up for lack of plot is the film’s cool out of sequence structure. There are a lot of intricate clues placed throughout the film. Even the smallest of details provide great some great insight in the characters’ background story. The Grudge surprisingly grows stronger and richer with each viewing. Another great attribute is that there are no major special effects apparent. The creepy score and sound design help create the film’s uncomfortable atmosphere. The look of the ghosts is simple enough but will surely stay with you for some time. The performances of the ghosts are terrifying.
Director Takashi Shimizu masterfully turns up the tension to the max. Aside from the opening scene, there is really no gore. The brilliance of the film is how it builds the suspense and then knocks you out of your seat with some of the most frightening and surreal images in horror. The atmosphere is dark and ominous. Shimizu knows that what we can’t explain can be far more eerie. Just imagine the classic nightmarish image from Ringu or the Hollywood remake in which the little girl crawls out of the television screen and loop to the 90 minute length. The Grudge is in the tradition of that scene except it surpasses it. The pacing is slow but unrelenting. Each set piece is packed with great scares and some genuinely inventive imagery.
Despite the one-note premise, The Grudge is one scary horror film. It’s a nightmare ride that never lets the viewer go. I think it matches The Ring in the creepy-as-hell department. I urge you all to go out and see the original before the remake releases. If getting scared is your thing then you won’t find a better flick.