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COLUMBIA TRISTAR

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Takashi Shimizu
Cast:
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman, Rosa Blasi, Ted Raimi
Writing Credits:
Takashi Shimizu (film Ju-On: The Grudge), Stephen Susco

Tagline:
It never forgives. It never forgets.

Synopsis:
From filmmaker Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Army of Darkness) and acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Shimizu comes a terrifying tale of horror in the tradition of The Ring and 28 Days Later. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as an American nurse who has come to work in Tokyo. Following a series of horrifying and mysterious deaths, she encounters the vengeful supernatural spirit that possesses its victims, claims their souls, then passes its curse to another person in a spreading chain of horror. Now, she must find a way to break thissupernatural spell or become the next victim of an ancient evil that never dies, but forever lives to kill.

Box Office:
Budget
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$39.128 million on 3245 screens.
Domestic Gross
$110.175 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 2/1/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert and Actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ted Raimi, KaDee Strickland, Jason Behr and Clea DuVall
• ďA Powerful RageĒ Documentary
• ďUnder the SkinĒ Featurette
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Grudge (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2005)

It happens every fall: as Halloween approaches, studios churn out horror flicks to capitalize on the holiday and grab a few bucks before audiences figure out the movies stink. These films make some good money for a weekend and then quickly vanish.

Surprisingly, 2004ís The Grudge bucked that trend. It hit multiplexes a little more than a week before Halloween. As expected, it became the biggest moneymaker in its opening weekend. The shock came from the legs it showed, as Grudge stayed in theaters for a while and managed to rake in $110 million, which is a fine showing for a horror movie.

Apparently US audiences like Americanized remakes of Japanese horror, as Grudge comes on the heels of another hit, 2002ís The Ring. Due to intentionally disjointed, non-chronological storytelling, it becomes tough to write a synopsis of The Grudge and not reveal too much, but Iíll try. For the most part, the tale revolves around two parties. We meet college students Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Doug (Jason Behr), both of whom came to Japan to study. Karen also works in a care center, and that factor connects to the other main participants: the Williams family.

Another group of Americans testing the waters in Japan due to work, the Williams clan includes mother Emma (Grace Zabriskie), an older woman who suffers from lethargic dementia; thatís why she need to the help from the care center. We also meet her daughter Susan (KaDee Strickland), son Matthew (William Mapother), and daughter-in-law Jen (Clea DuVall). Susan lives in her own apartment, but the others all reside in a little house we watch them buy.

Itís that house thatís at the heart of The Grudge. Apparently something bad happened there, and those events taint everyone who enters the residence. The movie follows the mystery of what occurred and what will befall the various characters.

One of the strengths of The Grudge comes from its unusual chronological structure. Itís weird to think that only 10 years ago, the non-linear framework of Pulp Fiction befuddled many moviegoers; I still remember hearing people say ďI thought he was dead!Ē when the John Travolta character reappeared. Audiences clearly have adapted to non-chronological tales, for The Grudge jumps about frequently and does nothing to smoothly transition for the viewer. Instead, we leap around willy-nilly.

This works surprisingly well. The format possesses the potential to become confusing but that never is issue. The technique might come across as a little disconcerting, but it all ties together well.

Unfortunately, a cheesy storytelling procedure mars The Grudge and makes the tale less effective. The Grudge starts with some title cards that reveal way too much of the backstory. The movie eventually gets around to providing this information through the narrative, a fact that feels redundant. Itís my guess that the movie studio insisted that the filmmakers present this material up front to ensure audiences donít become as confused.

This works, as the movie indeed makes more sense when we come to it armed with this knowledge. Unfortunately, the information renders the material less powerful. Since we know the backstory, the mystery becomes moot. We may not be aware of the specifics, but we can figure out enough to put us about 1000 steps ahead of the participants. Very little of the tale maintains suspense since the outcome seems so inevitable. The movie does its best to remain vague and I was moderately curious to see how the disparate storylines would tie together, but I really hated the way those title cards told us so much.

Though The Grudge tells an odd and surreal tale, it lacks much in the way of actual scares or true eeriness. It feels like the filmmakers canít quite decide if they want to make a quiet ghost story or a haunted house shocker. The movie integrates facets of both genres in an uneasy manner that dilutes the impact of both. We get a lot of abrupt shots in which characters pop out of nowhere for a cheap jolt, but otherwise the movie doesnít make much of an impact.

Add to that an exceedingly tepid climax that wasnít worth the wait and The Grudge goes down as a disappointment. I admire parts of it due to its unconventional structure, but some bad storytelling decisions mar those elements. Ultimately it presents a moderately interesting puzzle but it lacks the requisite scares and chills to make it work.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Grudge appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although consistently watchable, the transfer seemed erratic and fairly lackluster.

Sharpness varied a bit. Most of the movie came across as reasonably defined and concise. However, exceptions occurred, as the film occasionally looked somewhat soft and tentative. No jagged edges occurred, but blinds caused some shimmering and I also noticed moderate edge enhancement at times. Grain was heavier than usual, and a few examples of specks popped up during the film.

With an extremely subdued palette at work, not many colors cropped up in Grudge. A few exterior daylight scenes exhibited natural, warm tones. However, most of the flick took place indoors and created a grayish cast. The colors we saw looked fine; we just didnít get many of them. Blacks tended to be slightly inky, but remained acceptably dense for the most part. Shadows also were mildly heavy and not quite as cleanly delineated as Iíd like. No serious problems marred the image, but it showed enough small concerns to get a ďB-ď.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Grudge demonstrated greater consistency. With a story such as this, I expected audio heavy on atmospherics, and thatís what I got. Mostly the mix stayed with creepy creaks and spooky music, as it usually didnít get into much beyond that. However, this was more than appropriate for the flick, and when the track needed to kick into higher gear, it did so well. Elements were nicely placed around the soundfield, and the surrounds added good material at times. For example, a few scenes used ominous footsteps that padded across the rear. The track didnít often become terribly active, but it was a smooth soundfield.

Audio quality also fared well. Speech consistently remained natural and crisp, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. The mostly subdued score was clear and concise. It mustered good depth when necessary and always came across as well-rendered. Effects followed suit. They mostly stayed quiet but they added strong punch at times. Across the board, bass response was deep and firm. This wasnít a showy enough mix to merit ďAĒ-level consideration, but it suited the material.

When we head to the discís extras, we begin with an audio commentary from producer Sam Raimi, screenwriter Steven Susco, actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ted Raimi, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland and Jason Behr. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. I worried that the size of that group would make this a chaotic, incoherent track, but it actually flows quite smoothly.

Various things Japanese dominate the discussion. We hear about adapting to working in Japan, and the participants toss out many interesting stories of their time there. We also learn about differences in the ways Japanese filmmakers work compared with Americans. Other subjects include variations between the original Grudge and this version, changes made from Suscoís script, and approaches to characters. Occasionally the track devolves into generic praise, but it usually stays bright and intriguing. The tone remains light and peppy and we learn a reasonable amount about the flick. The fun anecdotes about Japan are what really makes it work and become quite entertaining.

Up next comes a documentary called A Powerful Rage: Behind The Grudge. Split into five parts, it fills a total of 47 minutes and 35 seconds via the ďPlay AllĒ option. It includes the usual collection of movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Sam Raimi, Gellar, Tapert, Susco, Behr, Strickland, DuVall, Ted Raimi, director Takashi Shimizu, production designer Iwao Saito, and actors Bill Pullman, Ryo Ishibashi, Rosa Blasi, Yoko Maki, Grace Zabriskie and William Mapother. They go over why they wanted to remake the original and Americanizing the material, Japanese concepts in the flick, casting, differences between American and Japanese styles, the roots of the story and adapting it, the lack of visual effects, shooting in Japan and dealing with cultural issues, the design of the filmís house, and the directorís style.

On its own, ďRageĒ works well. It diminishes somewhat only if youíve listened to the audio commentary, since a moderate amount of repetition occurs between the two. However, we get a lot of new information here, especially when we hear from the Japanese cast and crew. The discussion of the house design is particularly useful. At times, the program emphasizes praise a little too much, but it usually stays focused and interesting.

After this we find a featurette entitled Under the Skin. It goes for 12 minutes and 24 seconds as it looks at the appeal of horror flicks. We find notes from NYU Professor of Neural Science and Psychology Joseph LeDoux as he goes into why people like these movies and the affect they have on folks. He discusses the bodyís internal reactions to the material and why it works. This becomes a reasonably intriguing overview of the topic.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Guess Who, Boogeyman, Hitch and The Forgotten. Except for Hitch, all of these appear in the Previews domain along with trailers for The Grudge, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Riding Giants, Spider-Man 2, Man of the House and Mirrormask.

The Grudge aspires to be more than just the usual schlock, but it doesnít usually succeed. The movie is quirkier and more stylish than most, but it relies on too many stock scares and never pays off in a satisfying manner. The DVD presents somewhat mediocre picture with effective sound and some nice extras. Perhaps the original Japanese version of The Grudge works better, but this oneís nothing special.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3103 Stars Number of Votes: 29
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