Why You Should Watch: The Grudge (2004) + Preliminary Thoughts about The Grudge (2020)

From IMDb: An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

Image result for the grudge 2004 poster

After the massive success of The Ring, a rash of J-Horror remakes flooded the US market. Given the cultural differences between Japan and the US and the obvious cash grab nature of these remakes, most are pretty forgettable. Although it isn’t as artfully crafted and enduring as The Ring, The Grudge is a unique gem among its mediocre peers.

When I first saw The Grudge, it was under ideal scary movie watching settings. It was released my senior year in high school, and we went with a group of about 4-5 people including a girl who was terrified of horror movies. The main character and her boyfriend are named Karen and Doug which coincidentally was the name of 1) our friend who was scared of horror films and 2) her boyfriend at the time. We spent the car ride home calling her phone and doing our best impression of the iconic death croak sound the principle ghost makes in the film.

There are some genuine J-Horror sensibilities in this film mixed with enough shockingly well-staged jump scares to keep an American audience entertained. It plays with psychological tricks in ways you wouldn’t usually see in an American horror film, which gives it a unique feel. The movie also uses closeups of a character reacting to something extremely frightening before we get to see what they are looking at. It is a clever way to amplify the scare when it does hit (and sometimes it hits incredibly hard). I cannot believe they got away with a PG-13 considering some of the stuff they showed in this film in terms of blood and violence.

Sam Raimi had Takashi Shimizu, the Japanese director of the original Ju-On movies, direct this American remake of his own film. Raimi wanted to make sure the remake had “the same sense of aggression” as the original. Shimizu worked with American screenwriter Stephen Susco to translate the story to an American audience.

This isn’t the greatest movie, but it has some unforgettable scares and scenes that make it well worth a watch. Usually a horror film involves characters making mistakes or doing something dumb that the viewer can point at and say “there you go. That’s why they got stuck in this situation.” But with The Grudge, the characters haven’t made any stupid mistakes. All they did was walk into the wrong house and that was enough to seal their fates.

This is a good one to watch with a group, but still feel spooked about some of the things you’ve just seen.

The Grudge 2020

2020 will bring us an American remake of an American remake of a Japanese remake of two Japanese films. Will we finally wring this franchise dry?

The first trailer for this remake was mixed for me. It has a great vibe to the trailer itself, but the content was underwhelming. The second trailer seems much more promising, showcasing some of the gore that has earned this remake its R rating. It’s really intriguing to take a PG-13 movie and remake it into a hard R, which makes me optimistic this film might surprise me yet. I’m curious to see what the ghosts look like given the decision to move the story away from Kayako and Japan. I’m glad to see them reimagining iconic scares like the extra hand in the hair, and having it happen to a male character in the new one. Consider my cautiously optimistic about this film.

How are you feeling about The Grudge remake? And are there any other American remakes of J-Horror I should take a second look at? I’ll be curious to know if I’m missing something good…

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