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The Grudge: remake of the Japanese horror hit JU-ON (widely considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made), THE GRUDGE is helmed by its original director Takeshi Shimizu. Like its predecessor, this Hollywood version of the film takes place in Tokyo, but most of the main characters are American, including Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), a young social worker, and her peers. When Karen enters a seemingly abandoned home to look after a mentally disturbed resident, she soon discovers that there's an evil--and very aggressive--presence in the house, and it's lashing out at every person that sets foot inside.Having directed both the original JU-ON and its sequel in Japan, Shimizu was very familiar with his own tale of terror by the time he directed its 2004 incarnation. Using many of the key actors from the previous films (including Takako Fuji and Yuya Ozeki who have unforgettable roles), Shimizu recreates the story with the added advantage of a Hollywood budget (acquired with the help of producer Sam Raimi of SPIDER-MAN fame, who is also a noted horror-movie director). As with many Japanese horror films (particularly the original RING, which strongly influences this movie), THE GRUDGE relies on atmosphere over plot, resulting a series of utterly chilling moments that will leave viewers fascinated and unbelievely frightened.
The Grudge 2: The titular curse expands along with the franchise in the sequel to THE GRUDGE, which itself was a remake of the Japanese original for American audiences. The film has an ensemble cast and an extensive number of subplots that further reflect this tendency towards expansion. The story picks up right where the last one ended, with Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) in the hospital, the only survivor of an ill-fated encounter with a cursed house. She has not emerged unscathed, however, and it's up to her estranged sister, Aubrey (Amber Tamblyn, JOAN OF ARCADIA), to figure out the mystery behind the strange-goings-on related to the now half-demolished house. In doing so, she teams up with a journalist named Eason (Edison Chen), who has been following the case from the very beginning, and the pair embarks on a trip to the decidedly creepy Japanese countryside, hoping to visit the mother of one of the house's original inhabitants. Meanwhile, three teenage girls who attend a local international high school are haunted with nightmarish encounters, which begin after they venture inside the house to pull a mean prank on the new girl. When one of the girls returns home to Chicago, the curse spreads to her apartment building, where members of a family that have recently acquired an unexpected new stepmother (Jennifer Beals, FLASHDANCE, THE L WORD) violently turn on one another. Symptoms of the curse begin to turn up everywhere, while a horrified Aubrey learns that there is no way to stop it from spreading. Although the film suffers from a diffuse plotline and an unfortunate flashback sequence at the end, the high production values and well-executed special effects ensure a highly satisfying experience for discerning viewers out for a thrill.
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