Did you know when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage a curse is left behind, and it haunts the dead person’s home forever? Either I’m describing the coolest Trading Spaces episode ever, or it’s the latest example of already clichéd Japanese psychological horror.
The Grudge is part Japanese, part American – it’s a cinematic Benihana – except the unwanted strangers are sharing your house instead of your dinner table.
Yes, both freedom and poltergeists are on the march. Apparitions drift by, musical crescendos trailing behind them like Carolyn and George behind The Donald. And anyone who lays eyes on one of these ghouls is paralyzed with fear, which explains the waxworks visage of Janice Dickinson, the William Shatner of facial expression.
If the sight of Kabuki corpses crawling down the stairs won’t have you dialing 9-1-1, The Grudge brings you something truly terrifying: Sarah Michelle Gellar speaking Japanese!
As Private Eye Sushi Origami, Gellar goes Ghoular or, more accurately, Ghoular-san in this horror flick, set in a Japan where almost everyone is American! Does Tulsa have an Asian peninsula, because here it is!
The Grudge stars Gellar and Clea Duvall’s chin, both of which are more prominent than they deserve to be. Also featured is Bill Pullman, and from the moment Pullman throws himself off a balcony to his death, Bill Paxton’s phone will stop ringing.
It’s disconcerting when fingers poke out of Gellar’s head during a shower because nothing is likely to emerge from an actor’s head but dialogue and roots. Certainly nothing possessing manual dexterity or styled like a thought. In my favorite fantasy, Jessica Simpson has a powerful propeller pop out of her head which whisks her out of the universe, but that’s another story for another time.
Guess who Ghoular-san’s boss is? None other than producer (and Spider-Man 2 director) Sam Raimi’s brother Ted! With the kind of performance not usually seen outside the high school stage, Ted proves that in the casting biz, sexual relations are not the most important kind of relations after all.
The eeriest moment in The Grudge occurs when one woman cowers on her bed while a female spook crawls under the sheets and pulls her in. I can’t decide if that’s scary or hot, so I need to see it again.
Okay. One more time.
Whenever characters answer a phone, odds are good that it’s a croaking poltergeist on the other end. What, Japan lacks a Federal Do-Not-Croak list?
Here are some things I learned from The Grudge:
1. If the Caller ID reads “DEPTHS OF HELL” do not answer the phone!
2. If you’re near Clea Duvall when she turns your way, look out for her chin!
3. Japan is America without forks!
Producer Raimi is an old hand at mixing hammy humor with horror in the devilish Evil Dead series, but here Sam checks the funny stuff at the stage door.
And with characterizations Olsen-twin thin and creepy-girl-with-hair-covering-her-face modern horror clichés oozing from every pus-filled frame, this is one frightfully frightless and humorless Grudge-match.
Photos Copyright ©2004 Columbia Pictures