Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Grudge

An American remake that tries to go hybrid and ends up being neither one thing nor the other when according to Roger Ebert, it could so easily have been "Lost, Eviscerated and Devoured in Translation".

Hollywood's take on The Vanishing amply demonstrated that simply retaining the original director doesn't guarantee a successful septicisation. So along with Takashi Shimisu, maker of Ju-On, we have Japanese characters and locations along with some credibility-stretching scenarios for keeping up the English-only dialogue.

So, The Grudge is a Japanese horror movie set in Tokyo with (mainly) American victims. It's framed like an urgent message to all Gaijin - stay away. Asian horror is very much in the tradition of The Shining and Takashi Shimisu's story of a house with serious issues is an extremely scary movie. It throws just about every single trick in the horror book at us, and therein perhaps lies the problem. Whatever it is that is doing all the killing has multiple manifestations - male, female, childlike, feline, mainly located in the attic of the house, but also able to visit empty office and apartment blocks at will. It also makes scary gargly noises seemingly borrowed from both Alien and The Predator.

Amidst all the technique of scarification the story goes walkies. It begins with a mysterious suicide which is later explained, but not really to my satisfaction. Of the three 'ghosts' in the house that we know about, the husband's flaw is brute jealously, whereas the wife is a Gaijin stalker of epic proportions. More could have been made of this. Toshio, the boy is there just for those extraordinarily portentous looks he does. And surely the only reason why the husband killed the black cat was so that it could add a supernatural beasty to the mix.

It's a pity that the narrative is ultimately empty because Shimisu deftly plays with time shifts and even throws in one scene where flasback is blended with 'live' action cleverly.

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