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The Grudge

It being the Halloween time of year and with the subsequent horrors in the real world that make the holiday seem even more of a farce then usual, we decided the time was right the other night to take a load off and catch ourselves a horror flick. We were hoping to out horror the horrible for a spell, so to speak, which was ill conceived perhaps but we were also bored, depressed and had nowhere else to go so we figured we might as well pay six dollars to sit somewhere out of the way for awhile. The local theater was playing two films that were supposed to be frightening and since we had heard one of them involved people chained to toilets and forced to hack off their own feet to save their wife and kid's lives, we opted for the other one. We hadn't heard anything about The Grudge, other than it was filmed in Japan and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, who we know almost nothing about but have never been particularly interested in. As the lights dimmed, we and the several giggling teenagers in attendance sat back and prepared to be horrified.

And while we are a far cry from horror film buffs, we've seen a few and can report that while The Grudge wasn't horrible, it is not likely to be on anyone's must see to be horrified list either. It wasn't exactly like some of it's brethren of yesteryear, the ones we remember going to just to laugh at the bad acting and atrocious props, nor was it of the psychological ghost story variety in the vein of something like The Sixth Sense. It seemed like the genre was divided back in the day between slasher, "Happy Birthday to Me," and "Friday the 13th" types and the much more haunting psychological choices like "The Omen," and "The Shining". The genre has changed these days but the Grudge falls somewhere in between we suppose, with modern day special effect capabilities providing the extra surprises in the plot that allow directors to be completely lazy about letting us actually get to know anything about the characters personally or provide real explanations for why things happen.

The story, which is filmed in a skewed chronology that is off putting (not in any creative cinematic way either) features flashbacks and characters encountering folks from the past that they may or may not be able to actually see in the present. It involves a house, haunted of course, but not particularly spooky otherwise save the fact that it sits on the end of a rock walled lane in the midst of a crowded city, all alone by itself, steeping with the rage of violent deaths that once occurred there. We find out more about these deaths as we go along and the film definitely has it's scary moments as the characters venture into the various crawl spaces looking for the source of odd noises and in pursuit of a sulking little boy who seems to live somewhere in the house with his cat (guess what color). Any time we see a movie of this type we are reminded of an Eddie Murphy bit we saw once where he was explaining why you couldn't make a horror movie with black people. Murphy joked that the first time a black family saw blood oozing up from the sink or heard screams emanating from the attic, they would get the hell out of the house and the movie would be over. Both of these things happen in this film but when a real estate agent showing the house reaches into a murky sink and finds a wild haired and ghoulish boy grabbing up at him from the drain, instead of running out into the street, he simply goes ahead and rents the place to a young couple and their ailing mother. These folks stick around just long enough for unspeakable offenses at the hands of the boy and a wild haired womanlike figure who seems intent on scaring the piss out of everyone because, we later find out, she once dreamed of having an affair with Bill Pullman. And even though Pullman opens the film by taking a header off his balcony, he returns to investigate the house along with the witless Japanese gumshoes that populate this story, much of which is evidently lost in translation. 

SMG, in her part as a young American who is in the country while her boyfriend studies and works as a waiter, is almost a complete non factor in the movie which of course begs the question as to why she was chosen as the headliner. Her character is working as a care person asked to look after the aforementioned ailing mom and gets mixed up in the haunting when she goes on her first "solo" care job after the regular girl (below right) gets violently sucked into a musty attic. SMG is not particularly attractive or sexy or sympathetic in this role. Nor is she cute or pleasant or even good at looking horrified. It would seem like almost any other actress, either an attractive one, a naked one, or even one with an interesting face who excels at looking frightened could have been cast. Clea Duvall (right) who's been great in every movie we've caught her in, is already in the film playing the young wife forced to live in the house for a few hours and would have brought much more credibility to the film had she been cast in the lead. SMG is the least memorable thing about the drama but, since she is the first actor mentioned in the credits and the last woman standing just before they roll at the end, we must assume she is the star.  We won't spoil the final four seconds of the movie for you by revealing SMG's fate but suffice it to say that the wild haired woman pictured top right has something to say about it. You know the one that supposedly died violently to start the whole grudge thing rolling although who exactly the grudge is against is never clear. We thought this she-grudge, which remains all wild hair and special effects throughout, was angry and confined to the house where she died at the hands of her jealous husband but she apparently has the ability to morph into what ever form she wants, travel anywhere around town, and munch people under their bedspreads even when they have made it safely home and are miles from the house that supposedly keeps her. This big eyed mass of wisping black hair demon girl who sometimes appears as a young boy or a deceased family member is the one constant in the film and proves to SMG who the real star of the story is right before the lights come up. Of course Sarah's demise is not definitive in case she is needed for the sequel.

So if you feel like jumping out of your seat a couple of times and appreciating your own house and it's benign crawl spaces a little more, The Grudge might be worth looking in on. And if you figure out why SMG is a working actress, please let us know.

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