Between 2003 and 2010, horror remakes seemed to be all the rage. This can most likely be attributed to Michael Bay’s production company and the plethora of horror remakes they produced. The vast majority of the time, this films have been bad. They’ve been very bad. In fact, I can’t think of a single one that wasn’t bad. So it was was great caution that I decided to watch The Grudge, a remake of the Japanese horror film Ju-On: The Grudge, produced by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead fame. Oddly enough, though, while the film is in English and features American actors, it’s still set in Japan and is directed by the director of the original Japanese film. I cannot for the life of me think of why this is necessary, other than to provide a dumbed down PG-13 version of a Japanese film (that wasn’t all that popular in the mainstream anyway) in English for people who don’t like reading subtitles.
Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a nurse living and working in Tokyo with her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr). When Yoko (Yoko Maki) doesn’t show up for work, Karen is sent by her supervisor, Alex (Ted Raimi) to be the substitute for an old, dementia-ridden woman. When Karen arrives at the house, something feels wrong, and after some strange and frightening encounters with ghostly children, Karen decides to find out what’s going on and, hopefully, put a stop to it.
Let’s start with the positives. Sarah Michelle Gellar is definitely one, as she provides a solid and convincing performance, and doesn’t just play it as the typical innocent horror lead, but much more determined and actually able to do things and can take care of herself. Obviously, this will feel familiar to viewers of Gellar’s most famous role, Buffy Summers from the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Truth be told, there isn’t that much in common, and it’s different enough to not feel recycled or a victim of typecasting. Another good thing is the J-horror atmosphere, which as a fan of J-horror is great to see in a mainstream western horror film. It does create a sense of unease and dread in several scenes, despite the fact that it does get damped severely by it’s flaws. And The Grudge most definitely has some major flaws.
The plot is probably the biggest thing I would hold against The Grudge; it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I won’t reveal to much for fear of spoilers, but here is a link to the questions I have regarding the story. If anyone has seen the film and has answers, please let me know, because from where I stand, it’s a very badly put together story. It just brings you out of the story in every way and just smashes your immersion down with a brick. This is, of course, when there is actually immersion to smash down. The atmosphere I talked about earlier is nice, but the scares are distinctly lacking. The scares that are there are either not really that scary, or cut so quickly after actually happening it leaves no impact and just makes you feel bewildered rather than terrified.
The Grudge commits the worst possible horror movie crime: it simply isn’t scary. Of course, fear is entirely subjective, but for me, it was about as scary as someone just standing behind you out of nowhere for several hours. It’s creepy at first, but after a while it gets annoying and you wish they would just hurry up and do something. Combine that with a crawling pace that makes 88 minutes feel like 3 hours, and you get a boring, dull, and pretty useless horror film. What is the point of taking a Japanese film, getting the same director, cutting out several important plot details, and just doing the same thing just in English with a few American actors thrown in (including a hilariously out of place Bill Pullman)? Money, obviously, as the vast majority of remakes are. It’s an exercise that doesn’t reward anyone creatively and only serves to make some money for a studio.