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Friday, October 29, 2004
A few months I ago I went to see Ju On: The Grudge, a Japanese horror film that made my heart want to leap out of my chest and find a new place to live. While mindless, it was relentless and bashed the audience with a non-stop assault of disturbing visuals, foreign homesteads and cheap scares. It was more of a theme park ride than a movie and I loved it.
When stateside audiences hear "The Grudge," they'll associate it with the new Sarah Michelle Gellar remake. While its essentially the same story retold with an American cast and even fits in what looks like the same Tokyo split-level used in Ju-On, it's watered down. The nonstop scares are nonexistent, the body count reduced and the overall freaky factor lowered several rungs. What we're left with is an easier to follow remake with better special effects that's ultimately a wash.
The makers should be praised for transporting the cast overseas and recasting the kid and mother from Ju-On. One of the problems with The Ring remake was that the setting was switched from Japan to the Pacific Northwest. The original's terrifying kabuki ghost replaced with...an angry little girl about as scary as Casper driving a go-cart made of gumdrops. The Grudge stays true to its roots but still goes easy on its audience.
Worse yet, some of the best bits from the original are long gone. The melting television reporter, ghostly cat gang and fantastic finale zoom-in shot that sent audiences for Ju On fleeing for the exits are missing. The bed attack, possibly the most pulse-pounding moment from the original, remains in tact but so it's so rushed and poorly paced that they should have left the scene on the cutting room floor.
The remake is a Diet Grudge that handles its audience with PG-13 kiddie gloves. While this is good for box office receipts, it doesn't make for a horror classic.
Ju-On: The Grudge: 9 out of 10 screeching ghost cats
The Grudge: 5 out of 10 screeching ghost cats.