The Japanese film Ju-on is the basis of the new American remake The Grudge. I haven’t seen the remake (the critics scared me away), but by all accounts and despite the fact that both films have the same director, Takashi Shimizu, The Grudge is an ineffective version of the original. Not that the original is much more than a well-oiled ghost story machine, more creepy than frightening, but it does have a rather appealingly old-fashioned restraint, both in what is shown and the deliberate pacing.
“Ju-on” refers to a curse left behind by someone who dies in a great rage; right away we’re in familiar territory, the persistence of evil manifesting itself in the form of vengeful ghosts. The seed of the curse was the murder of an unfaithful wife by a man who was in such a homicidal mood that he also killed his 6-year-old son for good measure. This seemingly gratuitous murder of the young boy is good for the plot, since there’s nothing like a palely loitering ghost child to suggest an unnerving combination of pathos and menace.
The movie centers around the house where the murders were committed, which now is haunted by the dead wife and child, complete with Kabuki make-up and wide-eyed stares. Shimizu’s most original touch is to divide the movie into nonsequential chapters, allowing us to follow various characters as their lives intersect with the haunted house. This adds a proper feeling of disorientation to the proceedings, which is abetted by the aggressively dissonant soundtrack.
Another nice touch is the ability of the curse to travel via telephone: Every time someone picks up a call they’re unknowingly at risk. It’s a nice metaphor for the intrusiveness of technology, though one hesitates to read too much into the goings-on here. The point of the movie is to evoke a sense of dread and punctuate it with a few jolts; in that it succeeds well enough to make it a solid if not especially memorable genre entry.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak). Call 248-262-2111.
To read Metro Times’ review of The Grudge, visit the film section at www.metrotimes.com.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].