So it is September 11th and like I do every year, I think back to what I was doing that day and how my life has changed since then. Some of the changes have been good, some have been bad, and some I honestly don’t know yet if they are good or bad. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I am going to have to rush through this review because my little brothers and I are going to a concert tonight. So I have watched the original Japanese versions the last two days. Time to see how the American remake stacks up as I watch today’s movie, The Grudge.
The plot: Peter Kirk, a college professor in Tokyo, is standing on his balcony as his wife wakes up when he suddenly falls over the railing, killing himself in front of her. A few years later, a caretaker named Yoko arrives at the home of the Williams family to take care of Emma, an elderly woman suffering from dementia, and finds her alone in the house. Getting Emma settled in bed for a nap, Yoko begins to clean up the house when she hears some strange noises coming from the attic and when she investigates, she is attacked and killed by a ghost (Kayako). The next day, with Yoko not showing up for work, her boss, Alex, assigns a new caretaker, Karen Davis, to look after Emma. When Karen arrives, she finds the house a mess and the only person there is Emma, who is scratching at the door from the floor of her room. As Karen goes to clean up the upstairs, she hears scratching and a cat’s meow coming from a taped up closet. When she opens the closet, she discovers a diary as well as a small boy and his cat. Karen calls Alex for help and then begins to flip through the diary before she decides to make sure the house is locked up. She sees the boy watching her and learns that his name is Toshio before she goes to check on Emma, where she finds Kayako coming down from the ceiling and preparing to kill Emma. Flashing back to when the Williams family moves into the house, while Matt, his wife Jennifer, and his sister Susan are speaking with the realtor, Emma heads upstairs and is found staring at the ceiling of one of the rooms. Meanwhile, the realtor goes into the bathroom, where he notices the tub is full and reaches in to pull the drain, when he his arm is grabbed by Toshio’s ghost. A few days later, Jennifer is lounging around the house when she notices some strange noises and sees a black cat heading upstairs. When Matt comes home, he finds the house is a mess and Jennifer is in her bed, gasping for breath. As he goes to check on her, he is surprised by the appearance of Toshio, who begins to run around the room, while Jennifer suddenly dies and Toshio turns his attention to Matt. Back in the present, Alex arrives at the house only to find that Emma has died and Karen is sitting in the corner in a state of shock. The police are called in and after questioning Alex, they begin to search the house, where they discover the bodies of Matt and Jennifer, as well as the lower jaw of someone else. Meanwhile, Matt’s sister Susan is at work when she is chased by Kayako. She tells the security officer, who proceeds to investigate, and as Susan watches on the monitor, she sees a shadowy figure emerging from the stairwell, prompting her to run. She makes it back to her apartment but winds up being killed by Kayako. At the hospital, Karen is interviewed by Det. Nakagawa about what happened, as well as about Toshio, who then informs Karen that the bodies of Matt and Jennifer were discovered in the attic. Meanwhile, Alex is leaving the office when he sees a bloody Yoko, missing her lower jaw, and winds up being killed. At the police station, Det. Nakagawa is reviewing the security tape from Susan’s work and sees Kayako emerging from the stairwell and walking down the hall. Karen goes to see who Peter Kirk’s widow and looks through some of her pictures, where she notices the same women in the background of several pictures. Flashing back to Peter, who has received several love letter from Kayako and decides to go talk to her. When he arrives at the house, he sees Toshio leaning out the window, but when he falls, Peter goes inside and finds Toshio leaning against the edge of the bathtub. When he doesn’t see Toshio’s parents around, Peter decides to wait for them to arrive. Back in the present, Karen talks to Det. Nakagawa about what is going on, who tells her the legend about The Grudge, and how everyone who has spent time in that house has died. That night, Det. Nakagawa heads to the house with the intention of burning it down but he suddenly hears the sound of a child struggling. When he gets to the bathroom, he finds the body of Toshio face down in the tub but when he goes to check on him, the ghost of Toshio’s father Takeo, appears and drowns him in the tub. Karen gets home but after hearing a message from her boyfriend, Doug, saying that he was heading for the house, she races to the house to save him. When she gets there, she finds herself watching events from the past, as she sees Peter discover the bodies of Kayako and Takeo. During the course of the vision, Karen also witnesses Takeo kill Kayako, Toshio, their cat, and finally himself. She is brought out of the vision by Doug, who grabs her foot as he is lying on the floor. As they try to escape the house, they see Kayako coming down the stairs after them and she kills Doug. Karen manages to light the gasoline that Det. Nakagawa brought and proceeds to set the house on fire as Kayako begins coming towards her. At the hospital, Karen overhears the detective saying that the house was saved and as she goes to see Doug’s body, she learns that she is still being haunted by Kayako and Toshio when they both appear in the morgue.
The Grudge received mixed to negative reviews from the critics, earning a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus on the site is that there was some creepy imagery but not much logic or truly jarring scares. Many viewers tended to compare this movie to The Ring, since both are remakes of J-Horror films and the two protagonists, Kayako and Samara, look similar. The movie was a box office success, earning over $187 million off of a $10 million budget.
I hate to say it, but I did like this movie better than the original. Sarah Michelle Gellar did a good job, although I don’t know if doing a J-Horror remake is the best thing if you are trying to break free from the Buffy character. The story moved a lot more linear than the original, which made it easier to follow along to what was going on. There were some differences between the plot of this movie and the original, primarily the main character, but the differences did not take away from the movie. There wasn’t anything overly scary in this movie but there were plenty of scenes that had a lot of suspense to them, some that were redone from the original movie and some that were brand new. If you don’t like reading subtitles, then the remake is definitely for you.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5