THE GRUDGE (2004)
Region 2 (UK) Edition
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea DuVall, Ryo Ishibashi
Stripped of the alien-ness of the Japanese language, and
without the virtual anonymity of the cast members, Takashi Shumizu's
remake of his own 2003 film Ju-On, is an odd and unimpressive film.
Ju-On's odd, creepy, off-kilter atmosphere has been diluted by the
presence of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Sarah Michelle Gellar and other Westernised elements and
influences. The new film closely models itself on the original, but the
grit has been polished out of it. Pasty-faced children are chilling in the
Japanese film, but the same figures in the US version seem like pale
One of the film's biggest weaknesses is the
casting of Sarah Michelle Gellar (as an exchange student drawn into a
malevolent house). She's an accomplished actress, but the baggage she
carries from her role as Buffy, and our familiarity with all her acting
nuances, are obstructive. The unique Tokyo landscapes enhance the film
considerably, and help disguise the Buffy-ness of it all, but can't
totally eliminate the sense that the film is merely going through the motions.
It's not even vaguely scary, but then what do you expect from a film
targeted at thirteen year-olds?
The static menus on Universal Home Video's
disc do little to help acclimatise the viewer for the film they're about
to see. They also suggest a certain cheapness on the part of the studio.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 format,
with anamorphic enhancement. It's not an attractive-looking film, and
although the transfer might be a perfect facsimile of the film as the
director and cinematographer intended, it's drab and ugly. It's also
generally a very dark film, too. This is, of course, par for the course
with a genre movie of this type. However, even the scenes lit with bright
sunshine lack vibrancy. Some of the screen-shots used here needed
considerable brightening and contrast enhancement.
For a modern Hollywood-financed film, there's a surprising amount of dirt
on the transfer. It's not distracting, but it
is there. There are signs of edge enhancement in some shots, but it's well
under control, and should only be a problem on very large displays. There
are also some fleeting examples of MPEG macro-blocking, but these should
not be evident under normal viewing conditions.
The film is only eighty-seven minutes long,
so it's able to take advantage of a quite high average bit-rate:
7.49Mb/s. This may explain why it seems unusually grainy - the grain
hasn't been removed by noise reduction software to help keep the bit-rate
There are English subtitles for the film,
the commentary track and the bonus features. There's a moment in the
commentary track where Sarah Michelle Gellar is discussing a scene where
she's performing with an actress with a long, synthetic wig, and a
cigarette lighter, and the subtitles make a mildly amusing error. Instead
of "So I kept worrying that I would torch her completely", they say "So I
kept worrying that I would torture her completely". It must be the accent.
The film has several sequences where
Japanese dialogue is subtitled, and a few shots where there are English
caption translations for Japanese text (the writing on
some envelopes, and an entry in a diary, for example). These are burnt-in, and not
The layer change (at the end of
chapter 22, 68'05" into the film) is very well-chosen and not at all
There's only one audio soundtrack on the
disc: a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at 448kbps). The mix is often aggressive,
with heavy dramatic chords provided by Hellraiser composer Christopher Young, very much on autopilot.
The sound effects design is often effective, though, and there are some
nice moments that play with separation effects, but generally it's not
THE BONUS MATERIAL
Universal hasn't been stingy with the bonus
features on the disc.
The film is supported by a commentary track featuring eight of the
film's cast and crew members (
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clea DuVall, Jason Behr, KaDee Strickland,
producers Robert Tapert, Ted Raimi and Sam Raimi, and screenwriter Stephen
It's a very entertaining track, with plenty of good-natured banter between
the participants, who closely bonded during their stay in Tokyo. There's a
lot of giggling about the cultural differences they encountered, and about
how much effort various individuals made to blend in, or not, as the case
may be. There are also a
occasions where they're self-consciously aware of how shallow they are
being, and how pampered Hollywood stars are in their own country.
largely oblivious to the film's shortcomings, and
no-one delves too deeply
into the history of the film, or its relationship with its predecessor. As
is often the case with large group commentaries, it's sometimes difficult
to identify each contributor.
In the absence of the director, it's Gellar who takes the lead
and since it's her presence in the film that will draw many customers,
it's probably just as well.
A Powerful Rage: Behind The Grudge
This documentary, produced and directed by
Michael Gillis, is broken down into five segments: The Birth of The
Grudge, Myth of the Ju-On, Culture Shock: The American Cast
in Japan, Designing The Grudge House and A New Direction:
Understanding Takashi Shimizu.
Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen
format, this is straightforward look at the making of the film, featuring
the usual mix of behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads (including
Gellar and Bill Pullman, who has a supporting role in the film). It also
features contributions from the director, and some of the Japanese cast
and crew members (these sequences are in Japanese, with player-generated
subtitles). It's a bit of a patchwork, as if it was cobbled together using
tons of b-roll footage and promotional interviews, but generally
worthwhile and substantial.
Under The Skin (12m)
n academic look at how horror films
scare us, courtesy of Joseph LeDoux, Ph.d, Professor of Neural Science and
Psychology. This is illustrated using clips from the film, and from other
films, like William Castle's The Tingler. It's rather dry, and
there won't be many viewers who wouldn't have cheerfully ditched this for
a few minutes of deleted scenes, or a blooper reel.
There is some discussion during the
commentary about scenes that were filmed, but not used, and about material
cut to achieve its MPAA PG-13 rating, but none of the excised footage has
ended up on the DVD. They also note that a different shot of Gellar in the
shower was used in the TV adverts, but these aren't on the disc either.
While we're on the subject, it's worth noting that the shower sequence is
strictly PG-13 material. It's the marketing people's job to lure punters
in with the suggestion of seeing some flesh, and my duty to warn anyone
who might be tempted to see the film because of it that they're likely to
The Grudge remake is a tame, bland
horror film. There are few chills, but it should satisfy fans of Sarah
Michelle Gellar. The transfer is probably a faithful replication of the
film's theatrical presentation, but it's dark and dull, and not ideally
suited to the small screen.
The commentary track and the A Powerful
Rage documentary are worthwhile, and help to make the disc
considerably more attractive.
The disc's content appears to exactly match
that of the US edition, which is on the Columbia Tristar label (the UK
disc starts with a Columbia logo', too).