195 – The Grudge

Karen Davis (Sarah Michell Gellar), an American nurse working in Tokyo, is hired to cover for a caretaker who had not shown up to work. When Karen arrives she finds the house in total disarray and her patient in mute shock. Unwittingly, Karen discovers the presence of murderous, vengeful ghosts, bent on destroying anyone who enters the house – and then passing along their plague to their loved ones.

There’s a legend in Japan, you see, that says that when a person dies in a state of sorrow or rage, that emotion remains behind to haunt others. Can Karen escape the curse and prevent it from ensnaring her boyfriend Doug?

Whoa, not so fast, there. This is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, here, true, but she’s not Superman. Surely Karen can’t topple an ancient curse, right?

Horror movies are all the rage now, which is good. Even better, the emphasis seems to be on suspense as much as it’s on gore and whatnot. The Grudge trucks with the former much more than with the latter, which is also a good thing. It’s an amusing, entertaining little film, and there’s no slight intended. Rather than overwhelm the viewer’s senses with loud noises and blood, director Takashi Shimizu opts instead for what lurks around the corner and under the bed. Yes, you do see some gross things (including an undead being that looks like it walked off the set of The Ring), but watching the movie isn’t like
stepping into a house of horrors in which what you see is what’s scary. As with the scariest movies, what you don’t see can kill you.

Gellar is pretty good, considering she’s been in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer. The Grudge is leagues ahead of crappy teenyboppers-in-peril movies like that one (and Scream 2, in which Gellar also appeared), in terms of both style and story. Really, it’s like the difference between Scooby Doo and Columbo. Sure, it’s a fairly easy gig, playing a victim in a horror movie. And, of course, if you’re pretty much the only “name” actor in the movie, chances are pretty good that your character is going to survive it, in one form or another. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Gellar essayed her character’s abject terror, so kudos to her.

Really, if I hadn’t already seen The Ring, I might have thought this was even better than it turned out to be – although I did think it turned out better than I had anticipated. It might seem a little derivative of The Ring to folks out there, but it seems to have derived only the good stuff.

The Grudge: ***


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