Thursday Night Movie Club
The Grudge
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: October 22, 2004

Director: Takashi Shimizu
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Jason Behr
William Mapother
Clea DuVall
KaDee Strickland
Grace Zabriskie
Bill Pullman
Rosa Blasi
Ted Raimi
Ryo Ishibashi
Yoko Maki
Yuya Ozeki
Takako Fuji
Takashi Matsuyama
Hiroshi Matsunaga
Kare Davis
Matthew Williams
Jennifer Williams
Susan Williams
Peter Kirk
Maria Kirk
Detective Nakagawa
Toshio Saeki
Kayako Saeki
Takeo Saeki
The Grudge movie poster #1
The Grudge is an effective, yet empty thriller. However, the scary parts come at precise intervals. This is a roller coaster of a thrill ride. But like a roller coaster, you can see the hills and valleys coming so after awhile, the shock value becomes expected. This movie is done with such precision that you can set your watch by it. After the initial shocks wear off, you simply sit back, relax, and wait for the next one, which is foreshadowed by the music track.

The movie starts with a very shaken Peter Kirk who promptly commits suicide. Enter, Yoko making her rounds as a Day-Care worker assisting an American family with their invalid mother while they are at work. Yoko helps the mother to her bed and nonchalantly begins cleaning wrinkled bits of paper strewn throughout the house. As she performs her duties, Yoko begins to hear strange sounds in the house. "Curiosity killed the cat" so Yoko begins to investigate. The noises lead her to the attic, where else, where she is attacked by a small boy with an eerily white face.

Enter exchange student, Kare Davis, who is assigned the task of filling in for the missing Yoko. Kare helps mother Emma to bed and begins cleaning the crumpled bits of garbage strewn around the house when she hears strange noises. While sitting with the mother, they are both attacked by a head of hair flowing out from the corner of the room. The hair turns into an eerie, while face.

After the mother dies from fright, the Police are called in to investigate. Their search leads to the gruesome discovery of two unknown bodies in the attic. The bodies are those of Matthew and Jennifer Williams, the couple renting the house along with Emma. Ah, the mystery deepens!

So far, I've just described the first three vignettes. The movie follows a regular pattern of starting a scene which inevitably ends in catastrophe. The film tries to follow the "Quentin Tarantino formula" of revealing disjointed bits of information which slowly leads the viewer to the conclusion. Instead, what we have is a formulaic-thriller that follows all the cinematic rules of suspense like a Graduate School final review. Music is used incessantly to build suspense. Alfred Hitchcock was much better in "The Birds" and "Psycho" in developing suspense without using any sound. Director Takashi Shimizu, re-making his own Japanese hit film for an American audience, needs all the help he can get to add suspense.

I suspect that the original story is fully entrenched in Japanese mythology. This doesn't quite translate to an American film. The movie opens with a quote informing the audience that sometimes, bad things happen, and spirits of the those who died during extreme rage remain as ghosts in the location where tragedy happened.

I'm not spoiling anything here by revealing the entire story. If you don't want to know the back story, stop reading this review now! As it turns out, a young, married mother of a young boy, has a secret love affair with a university professor, Peter Kirk. The affair is only in the woman's mind. Peter Kirk has no idea who this woman is. The woman writes about her love in her diary. Unfortunately, her husband finds out her secret, flies into a rage and kills the woman and their son. It is the spirits of the mother and son that haunt the house and plague all those who enter.

Herein lies my problem with the movie: Why is it the spirits of the mother and son that remain to plague/kill all those who enter their house? It was the husband who was in a rage, not them. I would have thought the father's spirit would remain. This makes much more sense to me.

There is another problem with this movie. The sound effects are so good, so convincing, that I wasn't sure if the sounds I heard were part of the movie or being made by others in the audience. I found myself looking around to see who was making all the noise, only to discover that there was no one sitting in that part of the very dark theater.

The acting of all is nothing but serviceable. Sarah Michelle Geller is not very attractive in this. None of the actors has really much to add to this standard thriller. The movie ends with the usual last suspenseful surprise, but when all is done, I was left with one last conclusion, "Who cares!". The movie is effective at keeping you on the edge of your seat but with no purpose other than to keep you on the edge of your seat. The final point of The Grudge is "pointless".