Friday, October 27, 2006
The Grudge 2
In which V and M have seen an adequate film.

I'm taking time out from my last few days in England to review The Grudge 2 for y'all. Before we get into that, let's sum up what we know about these Grudge films.

Q: How many Grudge films are there?

A: A whole lot. At least three or four Japanese films, some of which were made for TV and some of which seem to be remakes of each other, and two American remakes of those films. One of the Japanese TV films is laughably bad, while the Japanese theatrical version of Ju-On is hands down the scariest film I've ever seen.

Q: What is the basic premise of these films?

A: This Japanese man finds out that his wife has an unrequited crush on their kid's school teacher. So he kills his wife, and then kills their kid, and then kills their kid's cat, and then kills himself. This results in the wife and kid (and sometimes cat) haunting their house and generally being extremely pissed off.

Q: So it's a haunted house film?
A: Well, no. Conventional wisdom teaches us that when confronted with a haunted house, the best course of action is to leave ASAP. Once you're out of the haunted house you're okay. See also: The Amityville Horror, The Legend of Hell House.

The difference with the Grudge films is, once you've set foot in the house, you're screwed. Totally screwed. It's not haunted, it's cursed, and the curse might kill you in the house, but more likely it's going to follow you home. And most likely it's going to mess with your head for a few days and make you crap your pants and then kill you. And that's part of what makes these films so disturbing: there's no getting away from it

Q: So who goes into this house, then?
A: Idiots.

Q: Who's the baddie?
A: Technically I guess it would be the guy who went batshit crazy and killed his whole family. But in terms of supernatural evil, the wife and kid are the baddies of the film. In the Japanese versions, they appear not very frequently and are accompanied by a creepy croaking sort of noise. The dead kid always looks terrified and the dead woman moves in a weird, jerky, dead-person sort of way.

So now that we've covered all that, what can we say about the American remake of The Grudge 2? Not very much. It is frought with problems.

The biggest problem that I could see was blatant over-use of the angry dead woman. In the Japanese films, her presence is meant to be a significant shock. For this reason, you don't see her very often. And when you do see her, she's doing something that your mind registers as badwrong... usually she's moving or standing in a peculiar way, or appearing somewhere you wouldn't expect (like under your bedsheets).

In the American film, I can just imagine the producers saying "hey, that dead woman scares people. Let's trot her out as much as possible, even when it's completely inappropriate or unnecessary to the plot." Angry Dead Woman shows up in practically every scene. Showing so much of her dilutes any shock value she had. Instead of thinking OMG OMG THAT'S BADWRONG you start thinking "oh yeah, she's going to show up any minute." There's this one scene where a girl is running through a hospital trying to get away from Angry Dead Woman, and everywhere she turns Angry Dead Woman is right there, just like Michael frigging Myers. Sad.

They've also given Angry Dead Woman a nonsensical back story that has nothing to do with being killed by her batshit crazy husband. A pretty significant chunk of the plot is dedicated to following up on the nonsensical back story, only for the characters to be told "you foolish Americans, this has nothing to do with the curse. She is angry because her batshit crazy husband murdered her." So it ends up being a waste of time, and that kind of pissed me off.

Another problem I saw, which most people probably won't pick up on, is that they ripped off two scenes from the Eye films by the Pang brothers. In one scene, an old man is playing peek-a-boo with a ghost kid that only he can see, and in another scene a woman falls from a hospital roof and lands at the feet of her relatives. That hospital one was almost a frame-by-frame copy. I'll note that most American filmgoers will not have seen the Eye movies (soon to be remade no doubt) but I still think it's pretty frigging cheap and low to steal ideas from someone else's films. Personally, I would call that plagiarism.

The star of this film was Amber Tamblyn, which is probably only a problem for me as I just don't like Amber Tamblyn.

Most everything else about The Grudge 2 was okay, if a bit confusing. The angry dead curse can apparently follow people to America. A note of caution: if you live in an apartment building, and one of your neighbors has been inside the Grudge house, everyone in your building is therefore screwed. Actually the whole cursed apartment block part of the plot was maybe the most interesting IMO. It primarily follows this one family who live next door to the Grudge House girl. Weird things start happening to them and to their neighbors. There's this one great scene where a neighbor girl is chugging a gallon of milk, and then vomiting the milk back into the milk jug without spilling a drop. Makes you wonder how long she's been standing there recycling the same gallon of milk. Gross.

Would I recommend this? Sure, why not. As per usual, I'd recommend the Japanese originals first. But this is decent enough.