The Grudge (2004)

When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is born.

The curse gathers in that place of death.

Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury.

Those three lines are what we first see when The Grudge begins. They tell you almost everything there is to know about this film, or at least, its premise. Why there aren’t thousands of these curses all around the world is beyond me. Maybe there are, and we just don’t get to see them. The Grudge details one of these curses, told in non-linear fashion, just in case the basic premise isn’t enough to hold your attention — or confuse you.

The opening live-action scene involves Bill Pullman jumping from the balcony of his apartment suite. Why? It doesn’t really matter. This is a horror movie that tries to scare you. The motivation for something like this is inconsequential, although we certainly get enough reasons behind them. It’s explained later in the film, through mostly flashbacks and research done by our main character, but, like I said, it doesn’t really matter.

Our lead is Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an exchange student currently in Japan with her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr). She also works as a care worker in order to earn some credits for her school. After Yoko (Yoko Maki) doesn’t show up to work one day, she is told to go care for a woman named Emma Williams (Grace Zabriskie). Everyone seems to know that something could pop-up behind them at any moment, because they’re constantly looking around and seeming scared.

She visits this house, and discovers a boy named Tashio in a closet. And then some weird things happen involving a lot of hair, Emma dies, and she wakes up in hospital. Weird, eh? We also get glimpses of Emma’s family, who are supposed to be living with her, as well as what happened in regards to Bill Puillman’s character. Things that should be considered flashbacks aren’t shown as such, so you need to pay attention to find out that they took place in the past. If you fall asleep, you might end up missing something important, or getting lost in the time changes.

That’s always a possibility, because The Grudge isn’t actually that scary. You very well could be at risk of falling asleep, which is a shame, because this is a film that had a lot of promise. Maybe Ju-on: The Grudge, the Japanese horror film that was remade for American audiences as this one is scarier, but since the director of both films was the same, I’m unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt.

The main problem comes from how often we see the person that ends up stalking and attempting to kill all of the characters. We later learn that her name is Kayako, and she pops up exactly when you’d expect. That’s the gimmick, anyway, and it wears thin by the end. Everyone you expect to see killed likely will be, and yes, you’ll be seeing Kayako far more often than you’d like. This is like a slasher film, but in order to become a target, all you need to do is avoid entering this one house.

And if most of the characters actually respected the privacy of other people, they’d be fine. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale about not entering into houses you’re not invited into. Karen enters without permission, and we later find out that this is the case with Bill Pullman too. Same with Yoko. Even Karen’s boyfriend, at one point, enters without anyone asking him to come in. the only completely “innocent” people here are the ones who buy the house, and the police officers, of which only some of them get targeted.

Which leads me to wonder what happened to the police officers we don’t see die. From what I can remember, only one of them, the lead Detective named Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi), is targeted. The rest get away scot-free. And what about the realtor who sells the home? Or the people who also entered it when it was an Open House? I’m left wondering what happened to these people, because my attention wasn’t held by anything on-screen.

At one point in The Grudge, Nakagawa tells Karen that there’s a saying in Japan that says that if someone dies while angry, their property becomes cursed. We already knew that from the opening title screen, but I guess a reminder isn’t all that bad. So why, if that’s the case, did it only happen to this specific house. And why only in Japan? How come nobody else knows that this is happening? It’s all just so puzzling to me.

I could forgive all of this if I was entertained or frightened. I put off watching The Grudge for a long time because, I’ll be honest here, the trailer frightened me. I figured this would be one of those films you can’t get out of your head and it’ll keep you up at night. But it’s actually just kind of boring and instantly forgettable. There are a couple of jump scenes that got me, but Kayako popping up wherever she wanted got old after a while, and I didn’t find myself even getting startled anymore.

The Grudge failed because it wasn’t all that scary. Horror movies often don’t make much sense, but if they frighten you, you don’t question them in the moment. My mind wandered while I was watching this one — to the point where all I could think about was how much fun I could have doing something else. The non-linear storytelling doesn’t help much, the characters are largely all idiots, and, like I said, I wasn’t scared. As a result, I didn’t have much fun.

1 thought on “The Grudge (2004)”

  1. I remember the first time i watched this movie, i watched it in bed & remember jumping and hitting my head on my bed railing at the beginning part. This is one of the best horror’s, i think it got a bit out of hand after this one tho, number 2 and 3 were nowhere near as good.

    Aimee x

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