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2004 Roundup
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"The Grudge"

Directed by Takashi Shimizu.
Written by Takashi Shimizu and Stephen Susco.  Based on the film "Ju-On" by Takashi Shimizu.
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Ryo Ishibashi and Bill Pullman.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  10/25/04

Folks--

I was tired of these PG-13 faux spookfests two years ago, but they keep on coming, and since the Japanese film "Ringu" worked its magic into an American film called (shockingly) "The Ring", you can expect a steady diet of Asian-style horror-light films over the next few months...and, to kick it off, we get "The Grudge", a remake of "Ju-On" that has a couple of justifiably great scares mixed with the single-worst, most annoying sound effect in the history of film.

Buf...whoops, Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as Karen, an American exchange student working in Tokyo as a caretaker part-time.  When one of her co-workers doesn't show up for work one day, she fills in to take care of an old woman that lives in a house...up on a hill...that has no natural light coming in...that's FUCKING HAUNTED!  Of course, "haunted" would imply that it's just cursed, with little ghosts flying around but nothing to worry about.  The house in "The Grudge" has dead people living in it that show up every so often to kill people that have moved in.

I'll bet you THAT wasn't in the Real Estate listing!

Now, there's more to it than that, and there's some mystery that I'm supposed to care about that involves why the house is cursed in the first place.  And, all of that comes to light in due time.  In the meantime, we have to watch many people get killed off by these fake/real ghosts, one of whom is a little boy that meows like a cat (earning the nickname "Cat-Boy" by my friends Rob and Kristin, who showed up with me) and one is a girl that, for lack of a better description, moans like someone that seriously needs a drink of water.

Now, it's this girl that we need to address before we go any further.  The sound effect that she makes before she shows up to kill anyone was cool the first time around; if your dentist makes you say "Ahhh" and then you do it for, like, 30 seconds, that's the sound that the girl makes every time she's about to put the kill on.  Now, imagine her doing that sound six times during one scene.  Now, imagine the film's writer/director, Takashi Shimizu, giving us five scenes that rely on this sound effect.

It happens so many times that it went beyond not being scary any more...it became downright hilarious!  Then, the script gets dumb...a cop (Ryo Ishibashi, so great in "Audition"), who ALREADY KNOWS THAT ANYONE THAT ENTERS THE HOUSE HAS A DEATH WISH, goes back to the house to try and figure out if he can burn the house to the ground.  Just prior to this, he pulls out the fakest-looking bonding pictures of cops drinking at a bar ever witnessed in motion picture history, providing even more laughs for Rob and I.  Gellar, who is in so little of this film that one imagines this is the greatest paycheck value ever, doesn't even look scared enough in "The Grudge"; there's a fucking kid that meows before eating people, for chrissakes!  You even have implausible things, like deaths of people that never entered the house in the first place, that make all of this business not only unscary, but also unintentionally funny and completely nonsensical.

Then it really hits you--shit, the girl in "The Grudge" looks just like the little girl from "The Ring", which can only be considered copycating, since "Ringu" and the freakin' sequel to "Ringu" were BOTH released before "Ju-On."  So, not only is all of this business hackneyed, but they couldn't even give us a spooky character that looks different than the character in the most popular film of this genre of the last two years.  (Do I even have to mention that the sequel to "The Ring" is out in three or four months?)  And, Shimizu has made "Ju-On", a sequel, then two more remakes of the first iteration of the film, THEN made "The Grudge."  How many times can you make the same movie over again?  You'd think he would have made a classic by now.

Amazingly, "The Grudge" made $40 million over the weekend, so we are almost guaranteed of a sequel.  Who wins there?  Damn you, Hollywood, damn you...

Rating:  Rental

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09