Plot: Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an American who currently resides in Tokyo, a student who makes ends meet working as a caregiver. She is employed by an agency that caters to medical shut-ins, people who never leave their homes. Karen’s first client is also an American, so it seems to be a good fit. She is Emma Williams (Grace Zabriskie), an elderly woman who lives in a nice home, but as Karen soon discovers, some secrets lurk in the shadows. After some strange and scary events unfold, Karen is convinced the house is haunted by evil spirits. These ghosts don’t seem to like strangers in the home, but Karen must endure and she decides to learn the truth about the house. As she searches for answers, will she find what she seeks and in the meantime, can she survive the spirits, who seem to be ever more vengeful as time passes?
Entertainment Value: The Grudge was released as part of the massive trend to remake Japanese horror movies for American audiences, based on Takashi Shimizu’s popular Ju-on: The Grudge. This movie at least keeps the setting in Japan and that was a wise choice, as it makes some of the characters feel like outsiders up against this supernatural force from the local culture. That also helps The Grudge seem like more than the usual remake, since it at least brings a fresh element to the formula, while also paying tribute to the source material. While I still prefer the original, The Grudge is more than decent and is a cut above most of its remake peers, perhaps because Shimizu was brought in to direct it himself. The creepiness isn’t as prevalent, but there is some solid atmosphere and the supernatural elements still work, even if you’ve seen the original and know what to expect. I wish it was more tense and focused on atmosphere over the cast, but there are still some fun moments to be had here. So even if you avoid most remakes from this trend, The Grudge might be worth a peek.
The cast of this one is impressive and has some talented performers, but I don’t love that Sarah Michelle Gellar has the lead here. I tend to like her work in lighter, more comedic or satiric movies, but here she seems out of place. She doesn’t convey the kind of fear and dread the role needs, which winds up lessening the tension at times and of course, that is not good news. Her performance isn’t bad and she’s competent in the lighter or dramatic scenes, but when the horror vibes kick in, she just doesn’t convey the real sense of fear. The rest of the cast is more than solid, but no one gets a lot to do, so we have some talented people not exactly put to great use. Bill Pullman and Ryo Ishibashi make the most of their limited presence, but it is always good to see either of them in a film, so I knew I’d enjoy their work here. The cast also includes Clea DuVall, Ted Raimi, Grace Zabriskie, and KaDee Strickland.