Sarah Michelle Gellar plays ghostbuster in this haunted house yarn about an evil spirit that insists on killing everyone who drops by for a visit. Filmed in Japan, Gellar's character, Kare Davis, is an American exchange student volunteering at a home care agency in return for university credit. When one of the regular nurses doesn't show up for work, Kare is asked to sub for the day.
The Tokyo residence she is sent to is a mess, and seems to have but one occupant-an elderly American woman who is lost in a catatonic state. But then noises begin coming from the presumably vacant second floor. Making her way up the creaky stairs, and into a darkened bedroom, Kare is about to set the thickened plot in motion.
Through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, this film unspools a tale of unsettling events, which have left the dwelling inhabited by a spirit of death and doom. The movie purports the Japanese believe if a person dies in a fit of rage, their spirit continues to haunt the living.
Not unlike the hundreds of "made you jump" horror flicks already cramming movie shelves, The Grudge offers one refreshing relief -- it's filmed entirely in Tokyo. Like 2003's Lost in Translation, the scenery helps to compensate for what is otherwise a by-the-numbers script.
Reportedly, this is the fifth version of this story, all of which were created by the hand of Japanese filmmaker Takashi Shimizu. Released as a series under the title JU-ON, the legend has brought great success to the relatively new director... likely because he has the horror movie template down pat. Dark corners, scary music, and partially revealed figures leave your imagination filling in the holes far better than the camera can. Yet while his images have the power to jolt, his story seems out of control.
The one recurring "ghost" (who looks a little too much like Michael Jackson on a bad hair day) is the peeping creature you see on the movie poster. For some unexplained reason, this being occasionally appears to have no boundaries, and materializes in office towers or on mass transit. The rest of the time you may be assured that anyone who shows up at the house will not be forgiven.
Repeated gruesome images of a bloodied woman, depictions of suicides, murders, disfigured faces, and all the other usual horror movie nasties, make this an undesirable haunt for preteens. Adolescents with a penchant for thrills and chills may enjoy this ride, which is almost devoid of sex and profanities-however parents beware there is nothing redemptive in this tale. No good lessons, morals, or enlightened personal moments are offered toward achieving a satisfying conclusion. It's just an old fashioned scare-you-silly story that definitely holds a grudge.