dir: Takashi Shimizu
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This Japanese director has gotten to make this same film six times. It’s not like he hasn’t been given adequate opportunity to get his groove on, and to work out whatever the hell he wants to get out of his system.
I’m sick of it. Stop now. Kudasai, domo arigato gozaimashita.
He made the first Ju-on (Grudge), remade it another three times in Japanese, then was hired to remake it in English (twice thus far) and to wedge Sarah Michelle Gellar into it. Big bucks apparently in remaking Japanese Horror for the American market.
Problem is, even as exponents of J-horror these flicks are excruciating.
I don’t mean that in a good way, since they’re all supposed to be horror films. They’re excruciating because they’re so abstract and untethered, and repeat boo moments until you’re so sick of them.
This surge in J-horror for the American market is really about being able to make horror flicks that pander to the horror-liking audiences but also getting the flicks in under a PG-13 rating. All of the remakes (Ringu, Dark Water, these ones) retain most of the plot aspects and visual elements and repeat them, with some success (and a lot of failure) ad infinitum.
The Grudge flicks have less of a plot that the other flicks mentioned, and are thus the most frustrating. Sure, successful horror doesn’t require clear, logical plots, but there’s an absolute contradiction between the Japanese and Hollywood approaches to story-telling.
Shimizu and his producers, as revealed in some materials in the extras on the DVD, felt that there was a fundamental incompatibility between how they thought the story should be told, as opposed how the Americans wanted it to be told. The Japanese wanted everything to stay vague, unexplained and unexplainable. The Americans wanted a plot with characters and a story.
The ideal Japanese version flows like this: haunted house, people who visit the place start dying, people who know the people who went to the house start dying.
The American version would ideally want you to have characters to care about trying to fight these evil spirits who try to uncover what happened and how to stop it.
Fuck that, say the Japanese, that’s not Japanese. That’s not Japanese Scary. We want random people dying just for the fuck of it, and too many characters for you to remember let alone care about.
How terribly oppressive of the Americans. What bastards for trying to get a film made that an audience could understand. I have to say, I’m with the Americans on this one. The very first film might have been a bit scary, but making another five instalments of progressively less coherence has not made this franchise any more enjoyable.
The genuinely Japanese Grudge films are long on menace and short on coherence. They make no sense and they overuse their scares to the point where they cannot scare you any more, and just make you pray for the ending so you can stop being in pain. There are only so many times you can be scared of the shock appearance of a boy or a scary female ghost before you’re inured to it. Shimizu doesn’t care that he’s repeating himself, it’s just bang bang bang bang repetition: If we scared you the first time, you’ll be scared the three hundredth time as well.
The first Hollywood remake (which still had Shimizu at the helm) was probably the best version of these flicks. This additional trip to the well just points out how no more of these movies need to be made. There’s nothing left to say.
The scary house is still there. People still visit the house and start seeing freaky shit before some angry ghost does something to them. I’m not sure what that scary something is, but I presume it’s kill them.
The house was the site of a horrific set of murders perpetrated by a husband on his wife and child. The magnitude of the horrificness of what happened to them has created a kind of curse on the house. Kayako (Takako Fuki) and Toshio (Ohga Tanaka), her son, are vengeful ghosts. Kayako’s rage fuels her desire to destroy everyone and everything. Toshio usually appears to people before Kayako finishes them off.
Toshio sometimes makes cat noises. Kayako sometimes walks around like her bones are broken, emits a very loud death rattle down phone lines, and has very long black hair shooting out of every orifice. Oh, that’s so scary.
I admit I was scared the first time I saw Kayako crawling down the stairs of the evil house in the first film. Five films later it’s lost its appeal.
This idea of Japanese horror presents the supernatural almost as a kind of infection. Those who go into the house invariably come to a sticky end because they have caught the curse / infection. Those who bump into those who went to the house invariably come to a sticky end, I guess because they’re tainted as well.
Everything I’ve written here is far more coherent than anything you’ll find in this film. You can tell which are the bits of the film that the two teams would have struggled with the most: every time something scary but nonsensical happens, you know the Hollywood producers would have been begging Shimizu and his team to explain it a bit better. And every time the plot tries to explain what’s going on, and to create a sort of logical link between events and characters, you just know the Japanese were saying “it isn’t scary if it makes sense.”
Also, you can see the American influence in the whole mass of backstory given to a character playing Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character’s sister Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn), who is meant to be a main character of sorts, but gets as much of a raw deal as any of the other characters whose names you’d never remember.
Also, the attempt to explain a bit more about Kayako and her evil origins smacks of wanting the story to make a bit more sense.
There is absolutely no sensible reason for Gellar to be in this flick, and she isn’t for long, except for the fact that she is probably the most famous American person in it. Box Office Magic!
Under US influence, the flick tries to manage a three-part story, but there’s no reason for any of us to care about any of the characters in the multiple timelines. They are all just ghost fodder, and nothing they do amounts to a hill of beans or a litre of wasabi or any other analogy for pointlessness.
In the end, nothing makes sense. There is no escape. It ceases being horrific when you just realise there’s nothing limiting what the curse can do: people die because why shouldn’t they die? Everyone can die anywhere, they all can catch the infection, and there is no reason to have anything else happen apart from scary croaky voices and music that screams like the violins from Psycho.
I started off being intrigued by these films, and now that I’ve watched them all I’m profoundly bored by them. If I want nonsensical horror that doesn’t link to anything intelligent and rambles on pointlessly until it ends, I’d try to remember, and read the court transcripts from the last time I went on a serious alcohol and drug-fuelled bender. Now that would be terrifying. Finding out how badly you can embarrass yourself and what terrible things you get up can be more horrifying than all the incoherent Japanese crap you ever see in your life.
This stuff, now, after five movies, is about as scary as a tax return.
1 time I got creeped out whilst watching this film, despite its 499 other attempts at being scary out of 10
“They say it is one of the most haunted houses in all of Japan.” but I bet the rent is still astronomical– Grudge 2