Today’s selection: The Grudge (2004, dir. Takashi Shimizu)
Available from: Sony
Just as the success of Hideo Nakata’s Ring elevated Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On from being a segment in the School of Ghosts G anthology to a theatrical feature, Gore Verbinsky’s Ring remake resulted in Ju-On getting an American franchise. Normally I would discount American titles from eligibility for this segment (as much as I love Guyer: Dark Hero or Cloverfield), but in this case, the American remake has the same director, some of the same cast, and same shooting locations as its Japanese counterpart… so it’s sort of a Japanese movie.
The result is not the expected bastardization of the source material that one expects with an international remake, but a very polished product: after all, Shimizu had essentially made the same movie five times previously, but this time he had Hollywood dollars to work with. Takako Fuji is still cast as the malevolent onryo Kayako, so she too has had time to perfect the performance, and by keeping the story in Japan, we both explain why the ghosts are Japanese and add an unsettling fish-out-of-water feeling for American actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. Is she weirded out because it’s a Grudge house, or just because she’s not used to Japan?
This is one of Shimizu’s finer accomplishments, and earns a special spot for having inspired the Grudge parody sitcom The Great Horror Family. I’d suggest watching both back-to-back for maximum effect.