I’ll never forget that sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I first heard that the Ju-On films were next up for Americanization. I’ve always loved these films more than the highly touted Ring series, and the thought of someone screwing with the formula for Western audiences sickened me. I didn’t want to see a Toshio named Tommy or a Kayako named Kristine. It just doesn’t work. You can imagine the feeling of relief that washed over me when the news broke that series creator Takashi Shimizu was at the directorial helm and some of the original Japanese cast would be retained — namely the film’s ghostly villains. Finally Hollywood had done something right.
To be honest, though, I’m really not too sure how I feel about the film itself. Truth be told, I felt like I was watching the same good movie for the fifth time. Make no mistake, it is a great film, and Shimizu does a fine job of bringing his unique horrific vision to the States. The problem is that he didn’t bring anything new with him either except, of course, for a couple of wooden performances. Jason Behr’s comes to mind.
Maybe I’m just complaining because I’ve seen all four Japanese Ju-On films. Had I not, I’m sure I would think The Grudge to be a masterpiece. Just about every single scare and stylish scene was imported from its Japanese kin. This is cool for audiences that weren’t familiar with the other films, but hey, some of us devoted fans would have liked to have seen something new. He even managed (to my absolute shock by the way) to “borrow” a moment from the Japanese version of Ring 2.
The special features on the DVD don’t fare much better. Up first are a few featurettes that mostly concentrate on the American cast in Japan angle. Wow! Look at Sarah Michelle Gellar drinking tea and crossing busy Tokyo streets! Hey! Isn’t that Bill Pullman nodding his head and grinning while the locals are extra gracious to him? You get the idea. There are some worthwhile moments in the featurettes, but they’re pretty well spaced out over the course of watching the film’s stars bow to each other. Then we come to a mini-documentary (and I mean mini) about fear. This is easily the best thing on the disc, but with just an eleven-minute run time, there’s barely any meat on its bones.
It may sound like I’m being pretty harsh here, but with there now being five Ju-On films out there, I expected a bit more from the film and the DVD. Lord knows there’s enough source material. Maybe I’ll find myself satisfied when the long rumored director’s cut of this comes out. Until then, I guess this will do.
The Grudge (2004)
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, KaDee Strickland, Bill Pullman
A Powerful Rage: Behind the Grudge, a five-part making-of documentary
Cast and crew commentary including Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and more
Under the Skin featurette exploring the medical explanation of the fear response
3 out of 5
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