Hmm, deja review. The U.S. remake's still a stylish and well crafted horror outing, but still isn't frightening.
Hmm. Given my habitual laziness at the best of times, writing an entirely new review of this latest nigh-on-identical installment in Takashi Shimizu's mythos could be difficult given that I've just finished scribbling about the Juon: The Grudge. If you could beg my indulgence by reading that review and replacing Megumi Okina with Sarah Michelle Gellar I'd appreciate it, as I more or less did with the above summary. Thank you and goodnight.
Oh alright. In the dim and distant recent past, Kayako (Takako Fuji) is brutally murdered by her husband in their own home. Takeo Saeki (Takashi Matsuyama) hangs himself, leaving their young child Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) to fend for himself. It is said that such rage filled events echo through the ages, repeating themselves to anyone unfortunate enough to move into the property. Just as well really, as this would be a dull film otherwise.
The American Williams family headed by Matthew (William Mapother) move into the house of horrors, provoking a series of events that will prove familiar to viewers of Juon: The Grudge and fatal to the Williams. Also tied into the horror is unrelated exchange student Karen Davis (Buffy the Sarah Michelle Gellar), volunteering as social work carer for the infirm matriarch of the Williams family whose fate is sealed once she enters this house of the dead.
Essentially, this is a scene for scene remake bar a few (admittedly impressive) new shocky type bits facilitated by the bigger budget. What impresses if the fidelity of the mythos, the transfusion of American blood into the body of works occurring in a near seamless manner. Fears that the series might move wholesale to Nowheresville, Kentucky (never too prominent given the director) proved groundless, the doomed Williams family moving into the house made legendary in the previous installments in an entirely reasonable fashion. Gellar's exchange student character fits equally well, and in a way makes it a little easier to sympathise with their plight - not only are they experiencing some truly bizarre events, they're also strangers in a strange land with precious few people to turn to. The poor tykes.
Cards on table - given my familiarity with the source material this had little chance of scaring me, and the ever unshakable Rhythmwiz wasn't particularly affected by this either. However, one of the benefits of seeing this more accessible version in a cinema is that we're afforded an opportunity to gauge audience reaction, and if our lot are anything to go by it's reasonably scary. Given the abject silence that the schlock slashers like Wrong Turn and Darkness Falls were endured with there was an awful lot of nervous laughter going on while watching The Grudge. Sure signs that it's working for most people.
Horses for courses here. In absolute terms there's very little difference between this and it's previous incarnation, and that's even coming from someone with no love at all for the Gellar-meister. It's perhaps even more polished, contains a few more impressive grisly bits and given that it's in English it's entirely more accessible in this land at least. All of this means it's a better film, in our humble opinion, than it Japanese originator but not quite enough to earn itself an extra snowflake. By any metric The Ring went down the same path with better results, but it was working from a better film in the first place. Still, I can't help but appreciate this film and what it's trying to do, even if it doesn't succeed in scaring me enough to earn any higher plaudits.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.
Jason Behr (Doug)
William Mapother (Matthew William)
Clea DuVall (Jennifer Williams)
KaDee Strickland (Susan Williams)
Grace Zabriskie (Emma Williams)
Bill Pullman (Peter Kirk)
Ted Raimi (Obligatory Appearance in movie that Sam Raimi's had even a peripheral involvement in)