You know you’re watching a real bomb when you find yourself meditating on things like Japanese architecture and how one actor’s nose has an ever-so slight downward hook that, at certain angles, resembles a parakeet’s beak. Or more pressing matters such as the fraying end of a shoelace that will soon need replacement and the metronomic creaking of a seat 10 rows behind.
Oh, better pay attention! There’s that little kid again and he’s going to open his little mouth and that funny scream is going to come out of his mouth and then someone will suffer a presumably horrible death offscreen. Hmm, the Japanese really do take off their shoes before entering a house … fascinating culture.
The Grudge, Takashi Shimizu’s remake of the 2003 Japanese horror movie of the same name, should really be called Sucker Set-Up. You think something really interesting is about to happen, but it doesn’t. You think there must be a really interesting backstory to explain all the bloodletting, but there isn’t. You may even think the director will treat you at least to some imaginatively realized blood and guts or gratuitous sex or even a little comic relief now and then, but he doesn’t.
The movie is one scene played out with mathematical precision and predictability over and over and over again. The first time the ghouls/zombies/ghosts (whatever the hell they are) make their appearance, they present mildly intriguing possibilities. By the time The Grudge wraps up its barely existent story arc, you’ll wish it were you they were going to kill.
So what’s going on as you’re thinking up snappy retorts for arguments you lost long ago? An American exchange student named Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr) get caught up in some incredibly boring intrigue when Buffy, er Karen, a volunteer at a Japanese social agency named The Care Center, is assigned to look after an old woman who refuses to pick up after herself and stays in bed all day looking at the ceiling and indicating with her anguished eyes the “horrors” that await in the attic. Yep, the attic. Terrifying.
Why are people being stalked and dying in such a boring fashion? I’ll save that truly unspectacular surprise for the 5-year-olds who sneak into this piece of crap.
As scary as a cardboard jack-o’-lantern pasted on a 7-11 beer cooler door, The Grudge is nothing more than an opportunity to sit down in a darkened room for a couple of hours and contemplate your life’s unfinished work.
Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.