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  Grudge, The Keep Out
Year: 2004
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman, Clea DuVall, William Mapother, Ryo Ishibashi, KaDee Strickland, Ted Raimi, Rosa Blasi, Yoko Maki, Yuya Ozeki, Takako Fuji, Takashi Matsuyama
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: A man (Bill Pullman) stands on the balcony of his Tokyo apartment, while his wife bids him good morning from her bed. But he's not interested in what she has to say, and suddenly jumps over the rail to his death. Some time later, a care assistant arrives at a house elsewhere in the city and finds that the place is deserted except for Emma (Grace Zabriskie), the old woman she is supposed to be looking after. Thinking this is strange, the carer attends to Emma and starts to tidy up the house, venturing upstairs to a bedroom where she hears odd noises coming from the attic. Inside a cupboard she finds a door in the ceiling and opens it, climbing up to examine the source of the noises, when abruptly she is caught by something unseen and panics. The next day, she doesn't show up for work, so someone must go and take her place...

Another of the string of Hollywood remakes of Japanese hits, this adaptation of Ju-On: The Grudge was scripted by Stephen Susco, but crucially retained the writer/director of the original, Takashi Shimizu, on board to oversee this one. Wisely as it turns out, the newer version keeps a host of set ups and scenes from the first version, and even stays in Japan, meaning the two films look very similar in style. Unfortunately, the flaws of the original are present also, so the episodic nature of the story creates the same stop-start lack of momentum, and the characters tend to look as if they're only around to be terrorised by supernatural forces rather than to give us someone to identify with and champion. Nevertheless, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen the American student abroad becomes more of a heroine figure than anyone in Ju-On.

Karen also works as a care assistant to earn her credit on her course, and she is sent to the imposing house replace the mysteriously disappeared previous girl. She finds Emma, who is practically a catatonic, in a bad way as if no one has seen her for days, and looks after the woman, but gets no information from her as to what might have happened and where the rest of her family are. To cut a long story short, Karen ends up being frightened into a comatose state by an black apparition which floats above Emma's bed, only she doesn't disappear - but we don't see that for a while as the narrative of the film goes back and forward in time to explain the nature of the terrible curse that is infesting the house like a plague, and being passed onto anyone who goes inside and pokes their nose around for too long.

Now we see the story of Emma's family: her son Matthew (William Mapother) and his wife Jennifer (Clea Duvall) who had moved to Japan from America with Matthew's job. Pretty much what you'd expect after having seen the first two hauntings happens, with the family falling victim to the curse (which nobody calls a "grudge") but the chilly, curiously flat and matter of fact atmosphere is enhanced by some interesting effects and scare sequences. As usual with such things, if you've seen the original then the remake will suffer in comparison, and it doesn't help that the best parts of the American version are lifted pretty much whole from the Japanese, but they remain worthy enough.

Karen has survived and after a stay in hospital she is determined to work out exactly what is happening at the ghost house. Meanwhile the curse is spreading as Matthew's sister Susan (KaDee Strickland) is hunted down in one of the strongest sections which showcases the Japanese horror films' obsession with creepy kids, spooky uses of technology and threatening female figures clad in white with long black hair covering their faces. As Karen uncovers more, with brutal murders apparently the source, the curse shows no sign of letting up, and its idea of the aftereffects an outrage being akin to an infectious disease - and a deadly one at that - is one of its most potent. Alas, the need to bring all these events to a head results in one character acting like a complete idiot with the ending unsatisfyingly melodramatic, but The Grudge is by no means a failure - file it under "nice try". Music by Christopher Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Takashi Shimizu  (1972 - )

Japanese writer/director and the man behind the hugely successful Ju-on films. Ju-on and Ju-on 2 were made for TV, while 2003's Ju-on: The Grudge was a bigger budget feature film, which Shimizu sequalised the same year. In 2004 directed a Hollywood version of the story, as the Sam Raimi-produced The Grudge, which he followed with The Grudge 2 before finally opting for alternative tales.

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