Following on the heels of such Japanese successes as hybrid cars, sushi and "The Ring" comes "The Grudge," yet another horror film remake that creates a spooky, supernatural environment that forces us to ponder the question: "What's up with those wacky Japanese people?"
This film is directed by the same man who did the original, Takashi Shimizu. I'm guessing that Takashi saw how American directors have butchered Japanese cinema with their remakes and felt a little overprotective. Hopefully, Takashi doesn't have any French blood in him because if he ever sees "Three Men and a Baby" or "Jungle 2 Jungle" he's going to have a heart attack.
It turns out Takashi didn't really have anything to worry about since "The Grudge" -- in English or Japanese -- is like being stuck on a haunted house ride that's going around in circles. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an exchange student in Japan who's living with her boyfriend, Doug (Jason Behr). Needing some credits in social work, she's employed by a health clinic and is sent over to take care of an old, mute invalid named Emma (Grace Zabriskie).
Among the many things that Karen discovers: 1) Emma's house is haunted. 2) One of the ghosts is a freaky, little kid with a cat. 3) Something really bad happened in the house, and 4) Vicious apparitions compare favorably to cleaning up sheets stained with old woman pee.
Maybe Takashi didn't think the audience would be paying attention, but after Karen barely escapes with her life, it immediately begs the question of how Emma survived more than a few minutes in the house. The woman is practically catatonic, doesn't say a word, yet everybody else who goes in the house is terrorized to death faster than Mary-Kate Olsen at The Cheesecake Factory. Okay, eventually Emma gets hers, but it becomes painfully obvious that she's just some kind of prop to get Karen into the house in the first place. How did the agency even find Emma? Who called? (The ghosts actually do make some cell phone calls, but they emit a low screech that sounds like Fran Drescher trying to communicate with a dolphin.)
There are about a million other believable ways to get a woman into a house that I can think of: There could be a mysterious sale on shoes; Enrique Iglesias could be in there naked; Nora Roberts could be doing a book signing. Eventually, Karen finds out from a detective that when something horrible happens in a place, the emotion remains and anyone who comes in contact with that emotion is trapped.
If that's true, I bet the building where they created Yu-Gi-Oh is the scariest place on Earth.
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