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Just when Ghostface
thought it couldn't get
worse than Scream 3 ...

The Grudge
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I shoulda known the movie would suck as soon as it tried to scare me with a friggin' cat.  As a fan of Sam Raimi and Sarah Michelle Gellar -- who looks slightly less bulimic than she did during the final three seasons of Buffy -- I didn't want to believe that The Grudge would really be 100 minutes of spooky apparitions popping out, as though they were auditioning for the starring role in a haunted house at the county fair.  But, by the film's weak conclusion, which explains absolutely nothing, other than the fact that Stephen Susco couldn't screen write his way out of a paper bag, I knew that I, along with the rest of the audience, had been cheated.   

This movie is merely a 100 minute extension of the trailers for this movie.  Michael Jackson look-alikes jump out every few minutes and try to scare the audience.  Some kid has a cat's scream for a voice, for absolutely no reason (and yes, I did notice the cat's fate).  Another creepy sort of "voice" that sounds a bit like a wet fart pops up, now and again.   And then we have the shadowy girl figure from The Ring make a cameo.  She's pretty boring this time around, being that she does exactly the same thing as she did last time, slowly walking toward the camera that's filming her, in all of her glorious black & white. 

The Ring isn't the only film that's been stolen from.  There isn't an original moment in The Grudge.  The movie, set in Japan, could have been scary.  An American character talks of getting lost in the foreign country and not being able to ask anyone for directions, because nobody speaks English.  This could have led to some horrific moments of miscommunication, but this movie didn't want to make the effort.  It's too lazy to be the Lost in Translation of horror.  It doesn't take the time to do anything more than scream "BOO!" every five or six minutes. 

Here's the story, in a nutshell (and it would be impossible to give spoilers, since all the movie is is what you've watched in the ads): A house is haunted, due to some murders that took place there.  Those who enter it are stalked by the Michael Jackson clones and the girl from The Ring. Then they get killed and start stalking other people that enter the house.  And for some reason, the house also gives exposition in the form of Bill Pullman's character, whose actions are visible to Sarah Michelle Gellar's character, even though they happened years before Gellar even entered the home.

We do get to see why the violent murders took place in the house, but your jaw won't be on the floor (although one of the character's ends up there) over the revelation.  It's about as shocking as a last minute twist on Days of Our Lives.  But you'll think that this can't be the big reveal of the film.  You won't let yourself believe you just sat through a 100 minute collage of pissed off spirits hiding under bed sheets (for no reason), in bus windows (for no reason), in the back of Sarah Michelle Gellar's head (for no reason; especially when you consider the fact that her character doesn't even notice it), in bathtubs (for no reason), etc., etc., etc ...

I don't blame Takashi Shimizu for the tedium that is The Grudge.  Some of the horror scenes are elaborately staged and could have been frightening.  Where the film fails isn't in the director's execution, but in the screenwriter's apparent inability to write and develop believable characters. 

The scare scene with the most potential ends up as a yawner, due to the fact that you don't even see the character, outside of in a photograph, until you're supposed to be afraid for her during the elongated scene.  If you knew this character before she was haunted, her ten minutes being hunted by a ghost could have been truly terrifying.  Instead it ends up even more boring than the generic shocks found throughout the majority of the film.  It's during this scene, the one that should have been an incredible movie moment, that the audience really seems to give up.  And the few still hanging on join in with the rest of the haters by the film's failure of a finale.

When the movie ends -- with yet another "jump" scene -- audience members at the screening could be heard clearly saying "what?!?" "Stupid!" and "I'm glad I didn't have to pay to see this piece of shit!"  The movie succeeded in making the audience jump, through audio cues and jolting moments, but it left them feeling as empty as they would have felt after taking a cart through that haunted house at the county fair.  A haunted house ride that didn't end for over 100 minutes.  One with absolutely no character development.  No emotion.  No moments of real terror.  No purpose for being there, other than to mislead people into shelling out their Halloween dollars (which could be saved for next weekend's superior horror flick, Saw). 

Longtime readers of The Juicy Cerebellum know that I'm a sucker for horror movies.  As long as I'm entertained, I don't care how stupid the film is.  But watching the same scene repeated dozens of times throughout a film isn't entertaining.  There is absolutely no variety in this movie.  Its repetitive nature makes it the most boring thing I've had to sit through at the theater since watching The English Patient.  If I didn't have to review it, I would have stepped out halfway through and been done with this ride.  Outside of one scene (the Yoko ghost with the missing jaw), The Grudge sucks.

Agree? Disagree? Have questions?  Comments?  Email this critic at alex@juicycerebellum.com

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