Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Grudge

I gladly undertook all the irritating aspects, the lack of parking, the incompetent staff, the vastly overpriced tickets, the lousy popcorn, the watery Mister Pibb, the audience filled with assholes who are incapable of just shutting the fuck up for ninety minutes, to see what I assumed was going to be a great horror movie. Watching horror movies is one of the few activities that is worthwhile to do with an audience. A room full of people frightened together of the same movie in the dark theater can be nothing short of magical. I dug the original, Japanese version of 'Ju-On: The Grudge', and enjoyed it's sequel. For the record, I'll state that the original one of the flat out scariest movies I've ever seen. The director, Takashi Shimizu, quite successfully dispenses with traditional narrative structures, and has an uncanny ability to evoke an ominous atmosphere, making a whole film composed of dark corners. Even though the original version loses quite a bit of steam as it goes on, (the schoolgirl segment isn't scary, and since I don't remember it, I can confidently state the ending was unmemorable) the scares therein are intense indeed. The sequel has some episodes that fall flat (like the absurd conclusion), but has moments that are as unsettling and creepy I've ever witnessed, and I watch a shitload of horror movies. So, since Mr. Shimizu has made two television versions, and two Japanese theatrical versions, I was thinking by the fifth time he has made the same basic story, it would be some good shit. Sam Raimi, who has his heart in the right place, gave Shimizu free reign to remake the movie in Japan with his own crew. After a very promising trailer I began to assume it wouldn't be a total bucket of shit, like Sluizer's atrocious remake of 'The Vanishing', and Ole Bornedal's lousy remake of 'Nightwatch'. Settling down into a nearly sold out theater of ignorant young moviegoers who have no idea how ferocious the source material is, thinking they are in for a run of the mill PG-13 Geller horror vehicle, I was gleefully anticipating many warped minds and future nightmares.

Then the movie started.

Call me a crazy, but isn't anyone in Japan Japanese? The only Japanese character with any screentime is the new character of Detective Expository, who explains the concept of the curse as is if such things are totally commonplace in Japan. What is especially infuriating is the sheer lack of respect for Japanese culture, the lazy American screenwriter just stuck the words in a Japanese actor's mouth, assuming that nobody in American would care, or even check the veracity of his statements. Why do you think America is going down the toilet? Because we are filled with dumb, lazy, fat people who sense they are entitled to everything and we don't have the sense to make a movie set in Japan and not force some bizarre curse into their cultural fabric; because, most dumb Americans would think it's true. If a Japanese movie had an American character saying the same thing, we would laugh at how clueless they are, wouldn't we? The casting of Ted Raimi is distracting. The return of Yoko, and an effect ripped right out of 'Day Of The Dead' is completely pointless. The last half isn't scary, the portion with the photographs ridiculous (is it a supernatural thing, or did she just happen to be in an artfully composed position in each shot?), and the ending is pathetic. So is the casting of Geller's boyfriend, why do American remakes of Japanese movies have to have an actor with immaculately sculpted long flowing locks? I cheered when the asshole with chin length mop of hair died a horrible death in 'The Ring', and I couldn't wait for the same results to the shaggy dickhead in 'The Grudge'. But, the movie is well paced, portions are artfully constructed. The death of the sister is still just as disturbing when I first saw it in the Japanese original. Geller does a perfectly adequate job, and it is still one of the scariest movies to grace the screens in quite awhile. The audience was scared, some people screamed, and for a few minutes, humanity seemed okay.

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