October 16, 2006

The Grudge

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Despite my initial hesitation to view The Grudge 2 due to my disappointment with the first one, I was glad to see to see that my expectations weren’t lowered or raised by the sequel. Even though there was barely a story line (and when there was one, it borrowed heavily from the first one and from The Ring), even though the dialogue was laughable (Eason: I came to see if you had anything helpful. But you don’t. Aubrey: What? Eason: Forget it. I don’t even know what I’m looking for anyway. I have to go back to that house. Aubrey: I’m coming with you. Eason: No! You can’t. Aubrey: I’m not leaving
until I find out why my sister died.), and even though Sarah Micelle Gellar was barely in this movie, it will genuinely frighten you with its imagery and complementary sound effects. Let’s just say I’ll be sleeping with the lights on for many months to come.

The story takes place immediately after the last film ended with Aubrey Davis (Amber Tamblyn) investigating the curse that afflicted her older sister Karen, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in what is essentially a cameo role. The story is virtually the same as the first one, although this time the curse spreads beyond the house and follows wherever the cursed individual goes, which is shown by several intersecting storylines with different characters in different places. Tamblyn seems a bit miscast for this role as she is much too cute for a movie like this, and I kept expecting God to pop up to talk to her. The visuals were truly terrifying, however, as evidenced by the many shrieks of the people around me in the theater, and the story ends on a pessimistic note, thereby heightening it’s horror value (and providing the studio with a chance to grind out a third one if this one does well).

I have to confess that I was much too scared to watch any of the parts with the ghosts onscreen. Even after shutting my eyes for the majority of the movie, the screams I heard coming from the people around me made me glad I did so. I probably would have had multiple heart attacks and ended up frozen in my chair scared stiff had I actually seen anything.

Japanese horror films (J-horror) are known to be much scarier than their American counterparts. They rely more on the story making permanent residence in your consciousness and psychological horror rather than the shock, schlock and heavy use of special effects that American films employ today.

What would you rather have happen to you? Being chased by Leatherface with his chainsaw or being followed indefinitely by a ghost intent on scaring you to death? You can run and hide from the former but the latter will stay with you forever.

Interestingly enough, American audiences probably will never get the chance to see the scariest J-horror films remade as many are deemed too violent or disturbing to ever get a US distributor. Some examples include Takashi Miike’s Audition and Ichi the Killer, and Sion Sono’s Suicide Club.
On a side note, the whole bit with pale Asian girls with their long black hair creeping around scaring the hell out of people is getting a bit old. When The Ring brought this up for the first time four years ago, I thought the whole look and feel was innovative. (Who knew such a frail looking girl could scare you like that?)

Now I know it’s just lazy writing. Yeah, they’ll give you a good scare if they jump out at you from dark corners accompanied by a sudden change in the soundtrack, but after seeing them crawl creepily towards you from movie to movie to movie, I sigh, check my watch, and wonder when screenwriters will realize that this trend is getting to be overdone. Lately, every horror movie and television show has been utilizing this type of character, even if the program isn’t Asian-based. Although that may be appropriate for certain styles, let’s hope there are updates for the types of horror characters we will see in the future.