#222 -- The Grudge (2004)

Rating: 4 / 5
Director: Takashi Shimizu

I'm finally starting to recognize a few Japanese directors. It's a really good thing, because I love Japanese horror, but I never really know what to look for as far as who knows what they're doing. I did notice that Sam Raimi is one of the producers, which always gives me high hopes. Ted Raimi had a small role in the movie, too, of course. But anyways, back to the my Japanese directors. I know Takashi Miike is wonderful, but I'm still on the fence about Shimizu. The only other of his films I've seen is Marebito, and I didn't enjoy that one very much. Ju-On, however, I really did enjoy. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite movies, though, which is why I also really enjoy the remake. This is one of the few remakes (especially of Japanese horror) that I feel is just as good as the original, and that's probably because they were both directed by Shimizu. I think that, if an American had tried his/her hands at the remake, it wouldn't have been as good. Americans are very good when it comes to blood and guts and a lot of gore, but the kings and queens of creepiness definitely goes to the folks in Japan. Maybe Japanese people are just creepy by nature, I'm not sure. But they sure as hell know how to creep the fuck out of me.

I think at this point, people know what this is all about. Whether you're a fan of the original, or you've seen the remake, everyone knows about Kayako. It is Japanese legend that when someone dies in anger or sorrow, that the anger remains. So, when Kayako was murdered (along with her son and their cat) by her jealous husband, that rage stayed in their house. A family moved in three years later; two of them were killed, and one was left mute and presumably insane. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr) were exchange students from America, and Karen volunteered at a care center. She was sent to the house to look over the elderly woman I mentioned earlier, because the woman's former care-taker was missing (she was up in the attic with Kayako). As soon as she entered the house, she knew something was wrong. She finally met Toshio, the young boy who had been murdered, and Kayako. The old woman was killed, and Karen was hospitalized briefly. It didn't leave her insane, but it did leave her with a sense of purpose. She was determined to learn the story of Kayako and Toshio, and to figure out why their spirits couldn't leave the house.

She did some digging, and found that Kayako had fallen in love (or was obsessed with) an American college professor (Bill Pullman). The professor was married, and probably didn't share her feelings. But when Kayako's husband learned of it, he was outraged. He killed her, drowned their son and his cat, and then hung himself. Karen thought burning the house to the ground would end the curse. But the house was not destroyed, and neither was the grudge. Because we all know that the only person who can end a grudge is the person who holds it. And, personally, I don't think Kayako will ever get over being murdered by her own husband.

I think this series of movies has become a legend if not only for its sound effects. As if corpse-like women crawling down stairs in very unnatural positions isn't scary enough, there had to be even more terrifying sound effects. There was Toshio's angry cat sounds, and Kayako's death rattle. That death rattle is completely terrifying, because...well, I don't really know why. I think that might be what it sounds like when someone's dying, and it definitely meant death to all who heard it. Maybe just because it's so foreign; we don't hear sounds like that everyday, and we know what it means for the characters. When we hear it, we shudder, because we can imagine the long, black hair and the deathly woman who comes crawling from around the corner after it.

If you take nothing else from The Grudge, it at least gives you a new way to torture your easily frightened friends. Just throw a little death rattle at them, and watch them piss their pants waiting for Kayako to get them.

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