The Grudge appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. 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, but 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 didn’t get many of them.
Blacks tended to be slightly inky, but they remained acceptably dense for the most part. Shadows also were mildly heavy and not quite as cleanly delineated as I’d like. No serious problems marred the image and I suspect it was supposed to look this grimy, but it showed enough small concerns to get a “B-“.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of The Grudge demonstrated greater consistency. With a story such as this, I expected audio heavy on atmospherics, and that’s what I got.
Mostly the mix stayed with creepy creaks and spooky music, as it usually didn’t 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t a showy enough mix to merit “A”-level consideration, but it suited the material.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the most recent DVD? Audio showed more range and heft, while visuals appeared a bit more accurate and concise. Neither area showed great improvements due to the limitations of the source, but picture and sound still worked better on the Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray repeats extras from the two prior DVDs, and it gives us both the film’s theatrical version (1:31:25) and an unrated extended cut (1:38:11). What new parts appear in the director’s cut? We get a few more character moments, some extra chills, and slightly more graphic material.
Don’t expect much from the latter, however, as the elements remain fairly tame; apparently they would have pushed the flick into “R” territory instead of the “PG-13” the theatrical Grudge got, but there’s nothing startling or terribly disturbing on display.
Does the director’s cut work better than the theatrical version? I don’t think so. The ending packs a marginally stronger punch, but the extra few minutes of footage make an already slow movie progress at an even more sluggish pace. Both versions are moderately interesting in some ways, but neither ever becomes frightening.
The Blu-ray includes two audio commentaries, and the first one accompanies the theatrical cut. It provides a running, screen-specific chat with producer Sam Raimi, screenwriter Steven Susco, actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ted Raimi, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland and Jason Behr. 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 Susco’s 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 entertaining.
A second commentary accompanies the unrated extended cut, and it features director Takashi Shimizu, producer Taka Ichise, and actor Takako Fuji. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Note that they speak Japanese through the piece, but we can watch it with English subtitles.
Through this jovial commentary, you’ll learn about subjects such as locations and sets, changes from the original Japanese version and alterations made for the director’s cuts, working with the actors, story issues, visual design, and various challenges.
Despite the darkness of the movies, the participants joke around a lot and make this a surprisingly fun piece. It doesn’t provide a surfeit of information, but it gives us enough to remain likable and entertaining.
15 Deleted Scenes run a total of 33 minutes, 35 seconds. Some of these are redundant or tedious, but a surprising number of them work pretty well.
Doug gets more screen time, so he’s not so much of a cipher, and a few decent scares appear as well. Maybe the shots wouldn’t mesh with the rest of the flick, but I think they should have kept at least four or five of these clips.
We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from director Shimizu and the others. They tell us some details about the segments, let us know what was and wasn’t in the Japanese version, and occasionally relate why they snipped the bits.
Usually they cut the sequences for time, but a couple of alternate reasons appear for some pieces. The commentary has some decent information, but a lot of the time the participants just narrate the shots, so it’s not consistently valuable.
Up next comes a documentary called A Powerful Rage: Behind The Grudge. Split into five parts, it fills a total of 48 minutes six seconds as 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.
The documentary goes over why they wanted to remake the original and Americanizing the material, Japanese concepts in the flick, casting, differences between American and Japanese styles. “Rage” also looks at 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 film’s house, and the director’s style.
On its own, “Rage” works well. It diminishes somewhat only if you’ve 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, 26 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.
LeDoux discusses the body’s internal reactions to the material and why it works. This becomes a reasonably intriguing overview of the topic.
Five short pieces appear in the “Featurettes” domain, and The Grudge House: An Insider’s Tour runs three minutes, 58 seconds. This piece leads us through the house set and shows us its various dimensions.
“Tour” occasionally superimposes movie footage to show us the action that happened in each particular spot. This doesn’t serve much of a purpose and it comes across as a pretty pointless extra.
The three-minute, 13-second Sights and Sounds: The Storyboard Art of Takashi Shimizu offers what you’d expect. We see close-ups of some drawings created for the film’s climax.
Why doesn’t this program use the usual storyboard to film comparison format? I don’t know, but that’d be a more productive use of our time.
Similar material shows up in Production Designer’s Notebook: The Sketches of Iwao Saito. This two-minute, 26-second featurette shows the concept art created for many of the film’s sets. I’d prefer a standard stillframe gallery, but the shots work fine as they give us a good look at the detailed planning sketches.
Two video diaries appear next. We get one from Sarah Michelle Gellar (nine minutes, two seconds) and another from KaDee Strickland (13:31). Gellar gives us a look at events on the set, while Strickland leads us around Tokyo.
Too much of Gellar’s is cutesy as she wonders where the tardy director is, but it provides some decent glimpses of the shoot. Strickland gives us a moderately fun look at the city. She tosses in her two cents as she wanders around various spots, and it’s fairly enjoyable to see.
Next comes two of director Shimizu’s original Ju-On films. We get “4444444444” (two minutes, 58 seconds) and “In a Corner” (3:23). “Corner” is the better of the two, though it goes nowhere. “4444444444” is just idiotic.
Previews presents ads for Resident Evil: Degeneration and Zombie Strippers. No trailer for The Grudge appears here.
Though The Grudge aspires to be more than just the usual schlock, it doesn’t 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 Blu-ray offers acceptable picture as well as pretty good audio and a strong roster of supplements. The movie does little for me but this becomes a solid release for fans.
To rate this film, visit the orignal review of THE GRUDGE