20 years of terror pt. 2: A retrospective on “The Grudge”

by | Oct 26, 2022 | Entertainment

October 18th, 2002 saw the release of the Japanese horror film Ju-On: The Grudge. This was the third film in a four-part saga created by Takashi Shimizu. Soon after the film’s release, producer Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) contacted Shimizu with an offer. The two soon began working on an adaptation of the original film. Shimizu would return as the director, excited to take his first step into Hollywood, and Raimi would produce. Together, they created The Grudge.

Unlike my article on The Ring, my view on The Grudge isn’t as positive.

Kayako (the ghost) is generally the same between the two versions. The biggest difference between Ju-On: The Grudgeand The Grudge is a lack of necessary context to establish the villain. The western version only portrays Kayako as a victim who’s become a vengeful spirit, whereas Ju-On: The Curse, the first film in Shimizu’s saga, establishes her as a terrifying villain. The lack of context makes the western Kayako fall flat. 

Second, the western version is almost too professional. Shimizu used neutral lighting and colour in Ju-On: The Grudge to enhance the film. He understood the importance of using a somewhat realistic atmosphere. I also don’t think Raimi understood why Shimizu gave the audience moments of levity in Ju-On: The Grudge. Because of the consistently eerie atmosphere and near constant scares in The Grudge, some of the recreated scenes aren’t as scary. There’s no levity in the western adaptation, so the viewers get less scared.

Kayako in the security camera, “Ju:On: The Grudge”

Finally, the casting. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Bill Pullman are great, but they were a bit too famous to make the film believable. Most of the talent in Ju-On: The Grudge was unknown at the time, and the film even jump started a few of their careers. The less famous cast furthered the suspension of disbelief. Casting new talent makes it feel like this could happen to you, even if the film is about a ghost killing people. If it could happen to the girl next door, it could happen to you.

But the western adaptation did have a slight narrative change that made the main characters more relatable for a western audience.  In The Grudge, we follow a family of immigrants moving into the series’ iconic haunted house. Shimizu and Raimi do a good job of creating an engaging conflict through this immigration storyline, but they lack the payoff the original film had. Raimi wanted to make it more digestible than Ju-On: The Grudge. He also tried to keep the tone and storytelling style intact. But in the end, the two styles just clash. 

You can watch Ju-On: The Grudge through Apple TV or Google Movies and you can find The Grudge on Prime Video.

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