An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.
Oh, to re-experience the film “The Grudge” is exciting indeed. Though for the record I love good Asian horror, and tend to gravitate to even good “Asian horror remakes”. This is one of few that in my perspective, qualify. There were of course ones that “didn’t”, such as the reworking of the film “The Eye” (and a few others that slip my memory).
“The Grudge” arrived promptly on the tail end success of the film “The Ring” which unexpectedly blew the doors off of horror for a short while. I’m speaking of the Asian Horror explosion that occurred around this time. This aspect of ghost girls, with long black hair and vengeful hearts was indeed something newer to the western world. We would soon discover that this trend was repeated a gazillion times over in other Asian horror films. But none the less, it was still damn creepy and a reason to check under your covers twice.
The film would feature actress Sarah Michelle Gellar in the role of Karen (an exchange student studying social work) who arrived from America to take on a job as a nurse and live in Tokyo. The job was to be basic elderly care for an older woman who could not take care of herself anymore and to replace the former nurse who flaked on the job. Karen was residing with her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr) at the time but was assigned to the work detail.
What Karen didn’t realize was that the house is a residence to a rather vengeful jaded spirit who doesn’t mind creeping people out with her hair mojo and the occasional rouge attack. There is also 1 damn creepy kid who either got too wild with the white face or who just didn’t get the message that its time to move on. The film was directed by Takashi Shimizu who was also the director of the original film “Ju-on: The Grudge ” created in 2002 and the inspiration for this version. This inclusion would help cement the “Asian” horror feel that it would need to reproduce its success in Japan. I for one, think he did a damn good job.
For the record “Ju-on: The Grudge” would get an American release soon after this film’s theater run for those who just needed to get the pure version of the film. “Ju-on: The Grudge” was slightly different but still very good as well. The premise was the same for both.
Getting to the plot, Kayako and her son Toshio were brutally murdered by her husband who thought his wife was having an affair. The reality for the Japanese culture is that women who are murdered unjust are then able to become the product of a rouge spirit able to kill whoever they choose. In our story, it’s mainly centered around the house itself which is now appropriately haunted by Kayako and Toshio. The notion here is that once Kayako gets her sites on you, you are pretty much a target despite where you reside or escape too. This aspect sets the house as a origin point but not necessarily a deterrent from vengeful haunting activity outside of the house.
The haunting is extremely supernatural often bending the rules of reality with transformations and odd appearances. This trademark would also be the staple of raging dead female Japanese spirits who seem to become more powerful in death than they were in life. It makes for some damn interesting effect work and tricky editing. More specifically is the trademark disjointed walks and crawl they seem to indulge in for added freak-out moments.
The strength of these films would seem to root themselves in “jump scare” moments, editing finesse and lifeless expression-less young ghost girls. The effect is rather effective much in the same way that we were affected by earlier 70’s films that occasionally embarked in this route. Though the movie “The Shining” comes to mind when I try and compare scary young girls to the eeriness of Asian horror culture. Note: The Asian horror character “Tomie” based a whole film franchise around copying this premise.
The franchise “The Grudge” would go on to make 3 sequels in America, all of which never matched the debut popularity. The Grudge 2 (2006) & The Grudge 3 (2009). by this time, the trend had over worn its welcome sending the Asian horror market back overseas from where it arrived. “The Grudge” garnered a successful box office run pulling in over $180 million. This was reason enough for studios to hop on the band wagon almost overnight.
The film is most effective if you haven’t seen a dozen or so of these style films already, however in my opinion “the Grudge” was a winner that paved way for an overnight horror industry to emerge.