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The Grudge’ is standard but scary

Molly Griffin | Friday, November 12, 2004

Haunted house movies are a staple of the horror genre, and “The Grudge” proves to be an interesting and decently scary addition to this classic vein of films. The picture is a remake of a Japanese film, “Ju-on: The Grudge,” and while it isn’t extremely original, it does provide a good number of scares and maintains an aura of suspense for a good part of the movie.

The movie follows a non-linear plot structure, so it jumps back and forth between various characters and timelines. It focuses primarily on Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a young exchange student who moves to Japan in order to be with her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr).

She works for a nursing care center, and she is called to a house after the primary caregiver mysteriously disappears while she is working. Karen slowly begins to discover the eerie hauntings of the house, as well as the reasons behind why they exist. She quickly finds that death awaits all those who enter the house, and that the agents of the curse will track down all those who have stepped foot within its doors regardless of where they are.

Through the use of flashbacks, cutbacks and some other narrative devices, the film manages to provide scares and a story without giving away too much too soon. The fact that it is based on a Japanese film is evident in how the story is told, as well as how it is resolved, and in this way it does offer a slightly different perspective on what constitutes a scary movie.

The film’s use of sound is perhaps the most effective means of creating suspense and startling the audience. The creak of doors, the swell of music, the howl of a cat and especially the eerie, guttural creaking noise that precedes most of the attacks all help to create an overall mood of anticipation and terror. Watching the film with the mute button on would seriously detract from the overall experience, and it would definitely make many of the pivotal moments much less frightening.

The house in the movie is another major source of scares, and it actually ends up being one of the most important ‘characters’ in the film. The claustrophobic atmosphere created by the Japanese home immediately creates a sense of tension before any major action has taken place, and the camera makes use of the cramped quarters to great effect.

As the film progresses, the doors begin to open on their own, mysterious shadows appear in mirrors and windows, and a sinister sensation is evoked whenever a character merely enters a room. When mysterious shapes begin to apparate out of corners, closets and bathtubs, the audience begins to feel tense when a character does nothing more than enter the building.

The film doesn’t exactly revolutionize the horror movie genre, but it does utilize many of the major tropes of classic movies, such as hands popping out of dark corners and grabbing someone, to create a good scary atmosphere. Although the movie does rely heavily on the “Don’t go in there” moments that are frequent in scary movies, a few of which will really have you wondering about the character’s IQ, it does manage to usually make you ignore implausibility with some kind of shock or scare.

Like so many other horror movies, it leaves the door wide open for a sequel, and with four films in the Japanese “Grudge” series and a number one box office opening for the film in the United States, it is highly likely that American audiences will be seeing more of the series.

“The Grudge” isn’t perfect, but it is a horror movie that achieves the goal of scaring you without completely insulting your intelligence.