a critiQal film review The Grudge (2004)

Plot: Karen Davis (Gellar) has followed her boyfriend (Behr) to Tokyo for college, and works at a local care center for the elderly. Karen's first patient: an elderly woman living in a mysterious house. After the unexpected death of the woman, Karen, now haunted by eerie visions, begins investigating the background of the house. The more she uncovers about the house, the more she has to fear.

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  • ...an okay performance by a frightened and weak Sarah Michelle Gellar and a plot that's been done better hurt the film, but performances by Ryo Ishibashi and Bill Pullman - plus some downright creepy sound effects - help pull this horror flick out of the gutter.

Everyone’s favorite vampire killer has returned…sort of. Sarah Michelle Gellar takes a bit of her “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) persona to the big screen in The Grudge. Will the tamer, easier freaked-out (and weaker) Buffy hit as big on the big screen as the TV Buffy did on the small screen – or should Sarah Michelle Gellar stick to Scooby-Doo (2002) sequels from now on?

Sarah Michelle Gellar does a decent job of acting in this semi-familiar role for her. She doesn’t act anywhere near as well as she did in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV), but she does a good enough job to get the viewer involved in The Grudge.The more films the viewer sees with Sarah, the more they began to realize that the writing, as well as the supporting cast, really helped Sarah to make “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) such a great TV series.

Without that backup, Sarah tends to flounder a bit. Thrust into the lead on The Grudge, she does her best to struggle through, but the viewer will easily notice a bit something lacking in her performance, comparatively.

Bill Pullman, a newcomer to the horror scene after his romantic comedy roles in While You Were Sleeping (1995) and the like, does a decent job in his small role in The Grudge as well. He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but he does pull off the first big shocker of the film with style.

The other actors are merely “cannon fodder” for the ghosts and ghoulies, and don’t really contribute much to The Grudge. The only exception to this, besides Bill and Sarah, is Det. Hakagawa, played by Ryo Ishabishi. He really helps contribute to the film, and, in his role as “good guy”, definitely helps put the fright into the audience with his ability to showcase his growing fear as the movie progresses.

The plot seems a bit similar to some of the other fright fests that have preceded it. Call it FeardotCom (2002) (with a house instead of a website), call it The Amityville Horror (1979)…whatever you call it, you most likely have seen something similar before.

Apart from that, the action is directed quickly, with (a bit too long) pauses to build up tension in-between, that makes it more than just it’s plot. The dialogue also occasionally leaves a little something to be desired, but again The Grudge struggles on despite it.

The special effects are well done, with a few images that will stay with you (if you’ve seen the preview, you already know of one: Sarah Michelle Gellar washing her hair in the shower and suddenly feels a couple of fingers reaching out of her head…) for a while after The Grudge is done.

The creepy feel of The Grudge is enhanced by the excellent sound effects of the film (example: a woman turns around with blood on her shirt – a little creepy. A woman turns around with blood on her shirt, and you can hear the squishy sound of her step, and every bone cracking and popping as she raises her head – downright freaky). The sound is more of a stand-out in this film than even the special effects are.

An okay performance by a frightened and weak Sarah Michelle Gellar, a plot that’s been done, and lackluster performances by most of the cast – sounds pretty crappy, doesn’t it? Add in decent performances by Ryo Ishibashi and Bill Pullman, and some truly creepy sound effects, and The Grudge starts to take on a whole new kind of light.

Giving The Grudge a shot on DVD is worth it…but I wouldn’t go right out and buy it.

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