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The Grudge

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Normally trailers for upcoming horror movies give me one of two reactions--groaning in disbelief or laughing at how ridiculous it looks.  The trailers for The Grudge actually had me going "Hmm.  That might be interesting."  I was wary going in because I'm not exactly a big fan of Gellar, but having seen it, I can honestly say that it's one of the most terribly underrated movies of 2004, judging by the slamming it got from critics and moviegoers alike. Now let's get one thing out of the way first. This movie still follows conventions that other horror movies use. However, The Grudge is a good movie not because movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Seed of Chucky look inferior by comparison, not because of its standard "jump out and boo" conventions, but because of its seriously twisted back story, cleanly efficient script, and effective use of atmosphere.  The characters deliver their lines smartly and nobody in the film wastes their time trying to solve the mystery of the villain and how to defeat it but rather just struggle to survive. The "curse" of the film extends to all who encounter it and is not just centered upon the house like in many other horror movies. Even though this film was released by an American studio and has American actors, The Grudge is still a fundamentally Japanese movie, and the presence of American characters lost in a Japanese city gives the film a subtle context. True to Japanese horror, The Grudge never uses gore or excessive CGI to scare you but rather clever visual tricks and effective use of atmosphere. The creepy designs of the two main ghosts enhance the scare factor.  The original film's anachronistic segment jumping is present in this version and might confuse first time watchers, but this version trims back on some plot elements and is more blended than Juon's rather episodic stylings. However, when the underlying backstory reaches its terrifying climax and revelation and takes the main characters along for the ride, you truly feel like you had just watched something different even in its familiarity. Despite its cleverly hidden complexities, the real meat of this film will always remain its seriously heavy creepiness.  Grade: A

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