“The whole time I was in that house I felt something was wrong.”
Japanese director/writer Takashi Shimizu retools his 2003 film Ju-On: the Grudge with new screenwriter Stephen Susco. It’s a scary thriller, but the chaotic plot needed notable improvements.
The plot begins well with helpful text descriptions then quickly sets the stage for the first encounter/resolution before opening credits end.
The next sequence engages the audience into the subplots (What would make a man do that? Why won’t the elderly lady talk?), but then delves into flashbacks and a confusing, non-chronological timeline. The plot sets up a lot of genuine scares, but won’t seem as innovative especially if you’ve seen the U.S. remake of Ringu (a.k.a. The Ring).
The memorable special effects, disturbing visuals and creepy sounds really make the film worthwhile. You’re never quite prepared from some best scares that include frightening video footage from a surveillance camera.
Season veterans of the thriller genre may not get an ideal amount of surprises but they certainly will remember the vivid imagery that stays in your mind long after you’ve left the theater.
Shimizu uses visual cues (like that familiar hallway), shot depth and perspective to set up the scares and environment as the characters are transplanted into Tokyo and their involvement with a mysterious house with a disturbing three year history.
Sarah Michelle Gellar headlines as Karen, a new student in Tokyo who has wanted to come to Japan forever, but all she finds are mysterious circumstances that lead to horrific ends. This fearless protagonist never really panics, though she is visibly and emotionally distraught from the chain of events.
Karen learns to faces some unimaginable facts thanks to some insight from Detective Nakagawa, played by veteran actor Ryo Ishibashi (American Yakuza, Brother).
Jason Behr (TV’s Roswell) plays Karen’s love interest, Doug, and William Mapother (In the Bedroom) and Clea DuVall (The Faculty, Identity) play the couple who previously lived in the house.
Bill Pullman has a small but important role (especially during the film’s climax) as Peter while Ted Raimi (Spider-Man 2) also has a supporting role as Alex, a coordinator who arranges house assistants for U.S. citizens living in Tokyo.
All the characters get directly involved with the mysterious house and must grapple with unique situations and premonitions that affect their actions.
This film will enjoy success at the box office due to a well-cast, marketable star, namely Gellar, and stellar co-producer, Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) who really knows the genre.
This one hour and 36 minute film comes recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and is rated PG-13 for sensuality, mature thematic material, disturbing images and events. Ju-On: The Grudge had a sequel and two predecessors Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2, all written and directed by Shimizu. Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge won the “Crystal Skull” award at Screamfest (see www.screamfestla.com).
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler