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  The Grudge
Takashi Shimizu, USA, 2004
Rating: 3.8

Posted: October 26, 2004

What is the Grudge? Is it the passive resentment I feel from Laurence Station ever since I told him his "girlfriend" for last year's Halloween party was a paid escort? Or perhaps it is the hidden anger I direct towards my editor, Kevin Moreau, for failing to process my request for something faster than a 25 MHz 386 computer, a.k.a. Ol' Ironsides. Well, both of those are excellent examples of grudges. But, today, I speak of the film The Grudge, complete with eerie ghosts, haunted houses and creepy Japanese guys.

The premise here is that when someone dies in a fit of anger or rage or horror (any one will work), a curse is left on the place of death, a "grudge" against the living if you will. If you see it, you will never be the same. If it sees you, it's your ass! Suffice it to say that something terrible happened in a certain house, and, you guessed it, a "grudge" or vengeful spirit now inhabits the dwelling. It's kinda like a more thoughtful Amityville Horror, sans Burt Young and the sweaty wife-beater T-shirt. In his place we get Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who's in Japan doing college studies, and winds up tussling with the, well, grudge.

Ok, first of all, is the film sufficiently creepy? Yes; it delivers on that front. The story is fairly coherent, and the film stays within its genre boundaries (which are pretty broad, since we are dealing with ghosts). And because of these things, what we have here is not a bad horror movie at all. Is there any offbeat campy humor here to dilute the horror? Well, if having your lower jaw ripped off by a ghost you come face to face with in a cramped attic is funny, then the answer is Yes. Or how about a creepy Japanese boy who died three years ago, but still runs about the house with a stare straight from the Manson bloodline? Get the picture? This ain't playtime, people! This is serious.

Which brings me to my next point. How does one defeat a grudge? Lemme tell ya, from what I've seen, when a grudge is after ya, it ain't appealing. When those ghostly eyes lock onto you, your week is pretty much ruined. First, because that means the curse has drawn you into the mix. Second, because ghosts, well, they really don't have much else to do. "Oh my God," you ask, "Clemenza, what can we do to fight a grudge?" Well, lucky for you I'm a veteran of countless horror flicks, because I can help you. You see, while the grudge is technically a spirit, it does tear some people apart, which means it has to have a physical manifestation. My recommendation is, when it takes a physical form, it's time to fill it with hot lead -- or, for the more daring, put an old fashioned beatdown on the thing. Then after you've pummeled it like the self-esteem of a reality TV contestant, stand over it and say, "I told you, Grudge, don't bring that weak shit in here!" Just like life, you gotta show people who's boss -- even if said "people" hail from the spirit world. Finally, one would think that the Japanese, who should be proficient in the martial arts, would have fared better against the grudge. Go figure.

Now that you know how to handle a grudge (and are better off for it, I might add -- please, no applause), back to the business at hand. This is a remake of a Japanese film, but since I ain't never seen a Japanese film in my life, I can't really help you there. That's more of an art-house, L. Station deal. What I can tell you is that the Americanized version of The Grudge delivers in the fright and creepiness departments, two elements sorely lacking in most of today's horror offerings. There are some excellent moments, such as when a detective watches a surveillance tape and witnesses a ghastly apparition appear out of thin air and slowly approach the camera until the camera goes totally black, except for two eyes that almost jump out from the video screen and probe the deepest trenches of your soul! (Reminds me of a couple of dreams I've had about Ona Grauer -- but I digress.)

To cut to the chase, there are enough shocks and surprises to keep you on your toes, and everything here (mostly) serves to advance the story. As such, it gets a passing grade. Turns out there's more to Japanese cinema than Godzilla movies. Who knew?

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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