Last year, the original Ju-On was part of the Midnight Madness program at the Toronto International Film Festival. The night that it screened to a packed audience, programmer Colin Geddes announced that the director could not be here because he was working on an American remake of his film with Sam Raimi. The Grudge is the product of that collaboration.
The latest in a trend to turn creepy Japanese films into American horrors, this version takes place in Tokyo and follows Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a nursing student from America who is sent to take care of an old lady (Grace Zabrinski, Laura Palmer's mom!) when her normal caretaker doesn't show up. It turns out there is something supernatural at work within the house and whatever it is wants to kill anyone who comes to visit.
When taken seriously, the ever-present threat of this being is frightening and there are moments that will make you jump out of your seat. The atmosphere of the film is its best asset, using camera work that creates a foreboding feeling, but the look of the film isn't enough to sustain suspense. In most cases, watching a horror film involves suspension of disbelief to some degree, but there are aspects of The Grudge that ask for a complete stretch of the imagination, such as the fact that everyone who is stalked by this being (save for two people) is American even though this takes place in Tokyo.
The audience is also hit over the head with the scary moments too often, to the point where the appearance of anything that is supposed to instil fear becomes laughable. While laughing instead of screaming may be enjoyable, it doesn't work for a film that shouldn't have any punch lines. (Columbia/Sony)