R013 The Grudge

(2004, Horror, color)


Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy

Everyone in this house moves as if the air was as thick as syrup.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Two words: killer ghosts.


That ghost needs a hair clip or a rubber band or something.Before the movie proper can begin, several blocks of floating text explain that when a person dies in a great rage or sadness, that place is infected with a curse that consumes everyone who enters it. You’d think that would just be a teaser, but no. It’s the beginning and end of the entire plot.

There’s a lot of non-linear tomfoolery and about a dozen peripheral victims...er, characters, but it all boils down to the following: Once upon a time a Japanese woman fell in love with an American professor (Bill Pullman). Whether she was just an obsessed stalker or they had an actual affair is never adequately explained. She keeps a diary chronicling her unhealthy fixation with him, though. This is discovered by her husband, who kills her and their son in a fit of rage before hanging himself. The professor arrives shortly thereafter for some reason, finds the bodies, and goes home to throw himself from a fourth floor balcony.

Later, the ghosts of the woman and her son kill a lot of innocent people.

That’s pretty much all there is to it.

...well, I guess there’s also Karen, a nurse played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. She has more screen time than anyone else, but hasn’t been given much to do. Mostly, she walks slowly towards random objects while the flashbacks happen around her.


Two characters who never meet, not even in this scene.The Grudge is one of the emptiest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s got lots of atmosphere but no substance, so that the end result is creepy but never actually scary. The scattered timeframe is particularly frustrating. It’s a little like staring at an unassembled jigsaw puzzle. There are five hundred pieces, but you only need thirty of them to complete the picture. The other four hundred and seventy are just there to confuse you.

Kevin Murphy joins Mike Nelson for the commentary track. The movie takes place in Japan, so there’s some obligatory mockery of Japanese popular culture—for instance, when the cops arrive, they note that these particular policemen belong to the giant lizard and fire-spitting robot divisions—but they spend most of their time urging the motor-impaired characters to take some kind of action. When nothing happens for a long time, Mike notes that there’s no actual horror, “just raw, unmitigated creepiness.” “Like a Pauly Shore movie,” Kevin replies. At the resolutionless ending, when there’s been nothing but aimless wandering and senseless killing up to the credits, Kevin says, “They just ran [the movie] into a ditch and left.” If I’d been watching the movie by itself, I’d have turned it off about half an hour in, asking myself why anyone had bothered to make it. Fortunately, Mike and Kevin make it far funnier than it deserves to be. With the commentary track, it’s worth a single viewing, but I won’t be watching it again.