As far as scary blockbusters go, The Grudge (on disc Feb. 1) is certainly nothing special. A remake of the 2003 Japanese film Ju-On: The Grudge, the movie is neither scary nor interesting to look at, nor does it have a single compelling performance. Part murder mystery and part ghost story, the movie bounces around needlessly in a scattershot, illogical manner and unsuccessfully tries to populate a Japanese horror flick with second-rate American actors.
Bland, skinny, and shallow, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays an American working in Tokyo as a caregiver for an aged woman. She soon encounters a malevolent spirit that has cursed the old widow's house. The Grudge then goes through a number of death-by-haunting scenes involving "characters" we couldn't care less about. Eventually it brings us back to the denouement and Gellar. Remember when we got real women like Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Mia Farrow in these demon-haunted parts? Me neither.
There are a smattering of creepy moments (e.g., a spectral child who howls like a dying cat), but overall the movie falls flat. Among the extras, we get a glimpse of what went wrong, as producer Sam Raimi attempts to justify his decision to remake the film in Japan, using the same original director— only with an American cast. Director Takashi Shimizu makes some insightful commentary on the East-West contrast and seems more than a little bemused by these Hollywood invaders. The lack of a common language may go some distance in explaining the tedious pacing. I was reminded of Lost in Translation, where Bill Murray, after hearing a long bit of direction from a Japanese photographer and the subsequently brief interpretation, asks, "Is that all he said?" Like Murray's character, everyone involved in The Grudge did it for the money, and it shows.
ALSO OUT Feb. 1,La Ciénaga is an interesting Argentine tale of families gradually imploding. Kinji Fukasaku's Sympathy for the Underdog and The Fall Guy are new to DVD. Chariots of Fire and The Bodyguard have been reissued with various extras. In time for the awards season, Jamie Foxx stars in Ray, while Reese Witherspoon's Vanity Fair deserves a second look. On the TV front, the Cartoon Network's funny Sealab and Brak Show also reach disc. From Criterion, look for new transfers of Night and the City and Bertolucci's early 1962 crime flick, La Commare Secca.