Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman. Rated PG-13.
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When a husband, in a jealous
rage, murders his young wife and child, a curse is born, one that will doom all
who enter his familial home to a gruesome death. This sums up the plot of The
Grudge, the latest American remake
of a popular Japanese fright flick to hit these shores since 2002’s The Ring.
The Ring, as you may recall, was a slight, guilty pleasure in
which a cast of unfortunate characters were condemned to unspeakable fates
simply because they had the misfortune of watching a grainy home video. The
Grudge, director Takashi Shimizu’s
first English-language production, is a variation on the same theme: All those
who view it are condemned to 96 minutes of violent vignettes that don’t add up
to a compelling story.
Was Ju-On: The Grudge, Shimizu’s 2003 original, as utterly inane as its
American counterpart? Will we, like the Japanese public, be subjected to a
sequel? The guess here is yes, if only because The Grudge follows such a mind-numbingly simple formula. See,
there’s this house. If you enter it, a creepy ghost will show up on your
doorstep and kill you. He will announce his presence by croaking at great and
laughable length. There is no escaping him, because, as the title suggests, he
bears a mean grudge. It’s that simple.
Sarah Michelle Gellar,
beautiful and talented actress, plays Karen, an aspiring nurse stationed in
Tokyo and assigned to the most ominous of work details. She’s charged with
caring for Emma (Grace Zabriskie, of Twin Peaks fame), who has the misfortune of living in The House
That Death Built. Bill Pullman, a veteran of better movies like Malice
and The Accidental Tourist, pays a visit. All will live to regret it… just not
for very long.
There is an explanation for
the curse, of course. According to Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi), the knowing
detective who has long suspected the house to be cursed, there is a Japanese
belief that malicious acts breed supernatural retribution. OK, fine. That’s a
rather pat justification for the redundant series of hauntings that comprise The
Grudge, but it’s fitting that such a
pointless story should be rooted in murky, arbitrary philosophy. To call the
film a waste of time would be an insult to wastes of time.