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Laramie Movie Scope: The Grudge

Creepy movie about ghosts with an unfair advantage

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 8, 2005 -- “The Grudge” is a movie from Japan about deadly ghosts haunting a house in Tokyo. It is a remake of an earlier film called “Ju-On: The Grudge.” The same director helmed both films. The major difference between the two is that the first was filmed in Japanese, the second one was filmed in English, with a partly American cast.

The story takes place in modern day Tokyo. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Scooby Doo”), a social services exchange student, goes to a house to cover for a nurse who did not show up for work. She discovers a woman in a catatonic state. Hearing noises, she discovers a dead body hidden in the house. Some police officers investigating the case are familiar with the history of this house. There have been other mysterious, violent deaths at this same house before. The deaths appear to be related, but how?

Karen does some research and learns about the house. It appears that a series of murders years before have spawned an evil force in the house which is born of hatred and anger that never dies. All who enter the house are infected by anger and hatred, causing more deaths which cause the curse to continue on and on. Soon Karen, police, and everyone else who enters the house are drawn into a deepening whirlpool of terror from which there is no escape.

The movie creates a very creepy kind of suspense which lingers not only in the dark corners of the haunted house, but other places, too. The film uses subtlety and restraint as it slowly builds tension. This is not one of the those movies where the ghosts are only in people's minds, here, ghosts not only haunt people's thoughts, but they take physical shape, too. They don't just haunt the house, the ghosts follow you to where you live and hunt you down. There is no escape from these ghosts.

In the western tradition, there are certain conventions about ghosts that are generally observed. Ghosts generally haunt a specific location. They don't travel at will. Ghosts generally don't take physical form. They are usually just a vision, a nightmare, a dream, a spirit. They usually don't harm people, either, unless the people threaten the ghosts in some way. The ghosts can usually be dealt with by performing a sort of exorcism, or by lifting the curse that binds them to the earth by doing some deed which puts the ghost at rest, such as burying the body properly. There are exceptions, of course. Since this film is Japanese, it follows a different set of conventions. These ghosts take physical form and they can travel distances from the haunted house to strike at will in other buildings. They appear to be indestructible and they kill everyone they see, whether or not these people deserve to die.

It seems to me, these ghosts have an unfair advantage over people since they are, in effect, all-powerful and eternal, while their victims are just puny, weak mortals. If ghosts were really that powerful, there wouldn't be any people left in the world, just ghosts. Director Takashi Shimizu is a master of mood and suspense. All the actors are effective, including Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea DuVall, William Mapother, and Bill Pullman. Director Sam Raimi is an executive producer of this film, so it is no big surprise that his brother, Ted, appears in the film as an employment agency boss. This movie rates a B.

I saw this film on DVD, which was an enhanced widescreen edition with English and French 5.1 surround soundtracks available, along with available English, Spanish and French subtitles. There is also a commentary soundtrack by Gellar and Raimi, along with an informative “making of” documentary which discusses the differences between the English and Japanese versions of this film.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)