The Grudge

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Universal Pictures Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 14 February 2005

Karen is an exchange student studying social work in Japan. She agrees to cover for a nurse who fails to show up for work. When she enters the assigned home, she discovers an elderly American woman who is lost in a catatonic state. When Karen examines the rest of the house she discovers a supernatural horror more frightening than she could ever imagine. The house is home to a curse, one that Karen must stop...

There is a legend in Japan which says when someone dies in a violent manner or as a result of great anger the house absorbs the atmosphere and seriously taints everyone who comes into contact with it.

The Grudge sees Sarah Michelle Gellar play an exchange student from America who temps with the social services, cleaning up and ensuring that anyone present is being properly cared for. All is not well at her first visit; the couple is not home, the elderly mother is confused and incontinent, and a mysterious pale little boy startles her with his sudden presence, especially as no boy lives at the home. The truth dates back to previous occupants of the house and an event which produced a physical entity... a vengeful spirit, and a string of deaths.

When the original Japanese version of this film first materialised on DVD I acted on advice and immediately availed myself of a copy. I'm so glad I did. It was original, spooky, didn't rely on special effects, and was the kind of film you could comfortably watch with subtitles (although an inferior English dubbed soundtrack was supplied as an option). Now, with no time of note having passed, we find ourselves with a remake, and the only question I find myself asking is why?

This new outing was filmed scene by scene almost identically to the first. Sam Raimi assembled the same director (Shimizu Takashi) and the majority of the same crew. They filmed at the same Japanese locations for exteriors, but shot the interiors in Hollywood using assembled sets of Japanese decor. Many of the same actors worked on both films, with only a handful being substituted for Americans (Sarah Michelle Gellar does her best - she's certainly convincing at showing fear - but to me she looks completely out of place in what is essentially a Japanese piece).

There are still subtitiles, just not as many. You see what I'm getting at? We have ended up with a very similar film, only not quite as good. The reason is explained by Raimi who says that American audiences will not watch a film if it's foreign or doesn't have American actors. If this is true, it shows them up to be extremely short-sighted.

The extras deserve another point. There's a psychologist explaining why we like to be scared, and a very good behind-the-scenes documentary. Part of the latter describes how an old legend of a man killing his wife, little boy and family cat was used in the film. The story has the spirit of the boy and the cat somehow merging to form one dark spirit.

In conclusion, this is a good film well worth checking out, but my advice would be to buy the Japanese original. It is better.

Ty Power

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