The Grudge delivers a powerful jump-out-of-your-seat fright show
In 2002, DreamWorks scored a solid hit with the release of The Ring, a remake of a Japanese cult film that caused other movie studios to turn their attention to the horror-film renaissance in the Far East. Featuring threats that prove to be manifestations of extreme, violent emotions or other abstract sources, these films are proving a fertile new source of inspiration for directors and writers working within the genre around the world. The Ring was tailored to the sensibilities of an American audience, offering a more direct explanation of the supernatural forces at the film's heart. By contrast, Columbia Pictures' The Grudge adheres more closely to its source material and is directed by Takashi Shimizu, who wrote and directed the Japanese original.
The result is a truly effective jump-out-of-your-seat fright show that delivers some genuine thrills but may prove challenging to American audiences, particularly teens. Shimizu delivers shocks first and provides explanations later, adding to the film's terror and mystery.
Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame stars as Karen, a young American caregiver living in Tokyo with her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr). Sent one day to the home of Emma, a catatonic woman (Grace Zabriskie) whose regular nurse hasn't arrived, she finds things in disarray and hears mysterious noises upstairs. Investigating, she finds a young boy who's been trapped in a closet for an untold period. She also encounters a spirit, seemingly born of rage, that paralyzes her with fear and dooms Karen to act as a carrier, spreading its malevolence to whomever she meets.
Shimizu employs a series of flashbacks, some of which dovetail into one another, to give the audience background on how this ghost came to be, why Emma and her family are living in the house, and their ultimate fate. The pace with which the director delivers this backstory is steady and never rushed, which lends the film a sense of doom. Equally effective is the way in which he uses ambiguity, never providing us with a complete answer for what's going on, which only bolsters the movie's sense of mystery and dread.
Shimizu proves a master at delivering big scares, and the adrenaline rush fans of this genre crave will be sated. Like other effective shockers, The Grudge is a movie you'll find yourself watching through your fingers the first time.
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Shark Tale [PG] The son of the shark mob boss is found dead and a fish named Oscar is at the scene of the crime. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Shaun of the Dead [R]A man tries to turn his life around by winning back an ex-girlfriend, reconciling with his mother, and dealing with an entire community of zombies. Parkway Pointe
Surviving Christmas [PG-13] A depressed record executive returns to his childhood home and asks the family who lives there to take him in for the holidays. They have their own problems. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Taxi [PG-13] A rookie cop tries to connect a bank-robbing beauty to a series of recent burglaries. He gets his tips from a mouthy cab driver. Parkway Pointe
Team America: World Police [R] Marionette superheroes are on a mission to end terrorism and eliminate tired celebrities. From the creators of South Park. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
The Village [PG-13] A period tale about a tiny village in 1897 Pennsylvania that is surrounded by a forest hiding a group of mythical beasts. White Oaks
Woman Thou Art Loosed [R] Chronicles a woman's struggle to come to terms with abuse, addiction, and poverty. Adaptation of Bishop T.D. Jakes' self-help novel. Parkway Pointe