The Grudge 3

Rating 1½

Directed by Toby Wilkins

Written by Brad Keene

Gil McKinney (Max), Johanna E Braddy (Lisa), Jadie Hobson (Rose), Emi Ikehata (Naoko), Shawnee Smith (Dr Sullivan), Marina Sirtis (Gretchen), Matthew Knight (Jake), Beau Mirchoff (Andy) and Michael McCoy (Praski)

The curse that originally emanated from a house in the suburbs of Tokyo now resides in an old apartment building in Chicago. Max is the supervisor in charge of the building, dealing with lettings and general maintenance. He lives in an apartment there with his sisters Lisa and eight-year-old Rose, who suffers from severe and life-threatening asthma. Another resident, Gretchen, a painter who suffers from arthritis, sometimes babysits for Rose, when Max is working and Lisa, who plans to leave soon, is with her boyfriend Andy. Lisa plans to leave soon, which creates conflict with her brother. Jake, the sole surviving member of a family killed by the curse in the building (as told in ‘The Grudge 2’) is under the care of Dr Sullivan in a secure psychiatric facility. Naoko, the younger sister of Kayako, the young woman whose violent death was the starting point of the curse (‘The Grudge’), comes to Chicago from Japan, intent on putting an end to the curse once and for all.

Ju-on: The Grudge’, the 2003 Japanese horror film written and directed by Takashi Shimizu, itself a remake of an earlier direct-to-video film by the same writer/director, is a classic of J-horror. A genuinely inventive film that is pervaded by a aura of creepiness and foreboding, it was remade in 2004 as ‘The Grudge’, a film also directed by Shimizu and filmed in Tokyo, but with a largely American cast, with top billing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. This film was a substantial box office hit, grossing in excess of $187 million against a production budget of just $10 million.

A sequel, ‘The Grudge 2’, followed in 2006, once again directed by Takashi Shimizu, but this time with the action split between Tokyo and Chicago. Gellar returned to make a cameo appearance and the lead role went to Amber Tamblyn, playing her younger sister. Although not as successful as the first film, it still grossed nearly $71 million.

Now comes a third American film, this one released direct to DVD. Takashi Shimizu turned down the offer to direct this time around, but he is credited as one of the executive producers of the film. Although set in Chicago, filming took place in Bulgaria, with Toby Wilkins, who had previously made the well-received low-budget independent horror film ‘Splinter’, as the director.

‘The Grudge’ was very nearly as good as the original Japanese film and managed to retain the unsettling aura created in that film. ‘The Grudge 2’, although certainly flawed and several notches below the film it followed, did have merit and was not altogether unsuccessful. However, the decision to transfer the curse from Japan to America, as told in that film, was always likely to be the undoing of the story.

As a quick cash-in direct-to-DVD horror film, ‘The Grudge 3’ succeeds in doing what presumably was intended. However, it is a pale shadow of the films that preceded it, telling its story in decidedly pedestrian fashion and completely missing the point of the Japanese folklore that informed the original. Shawnee Smith, who is familiar from the 1988 remake of ‘The Blob’ and the ‘Saw’ horror franchise, is wasted here in a role here that amounts to nothing. Equally, Marina Sirtis, best known as Deanna Troi in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, plays a character who could have been cut out of the film entirely with no difference made to story. These are the two most immediately recognisable actors amongst the cast.

I cannot say I actively disliked the film. It was a painless enough watching experience, but I do think it’s a shame that it blunts some of shine of the ‘Ju-on: The Grudge’ and ‘The Grudge’, which despite some negative critical reaction was a very credible remake. I am being very generous in giving it one and a half stars.

Review posted 29 April 2009

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