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The Grudge (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, and Bill Pullman

Rating:
**
out of
*****

In The Grudge's initial scene, Peter Kirk (Bill Pullman) gets out of bed, turns to look at his wife, and then throws himself out the window of his apartment. After setting its hooks into me with this unexpected opening, I thought I was in for a very disturbing and engrossing supernatural thriller. Well, I've been wrong before and I was wrong this time.

The Grudge tells the story of a house in Japan that appears to be cursed. Using a rather annoying time-shifting method, we learn what leads Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American exchange student, to enter the house and discover its unusual contents.

While I won't get into specifics, I was expecting a creepy flick along the lines of 2002's The Ring which, like The Grudge, was based on an original Japanese horror movie. Instead, I got a really confusing hodge-podge of scary scenes that, in the end, didn't amount to a plot of any significance. There is definitely a scary movie buried under all the confusion, but I prefer to be scared as much by a concept as I am by a bunch of interesting special effects and things jumping out of nowhere.

The idea behind The Grudge -- the fact that a curse is created when someone dies in rage of emotional fury -- and the film's way of translating that concept into creepy images are both superb but the plot is as transparent as the ghosts we're supposed to be seeing.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, while receiving top billing, isn't actually in the movie for very long. She is on-screen long enough to dispel any possibilities about her having a successful acting career post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If this performance and her work in the Scooby Doo movies are the best she has to offer, she better start praying for a Buffy movie now.

I haven't seen the original film, Ju-On: The Grudge, which was directed by Takashi Shimizu, the same man who directed this English remake, but I have a feeling it was probably more interesting and easier to understand.

Trivia: Two slightly different versions of the film were used for test screenings. One was R-rated, while the other was rated PG-13. The PG-13 cut, which had toned down some of the disturbing images, tested better with screeners. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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