Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Grudge’ (2004)

With Halloween on the horizon I thought it would be topical to review a horror movie. ‘The Grudge’ is actually a re-make of ‘Ju-on’ but unlike most re-makes it is done by the same director Takashi Shimizu albeit with an American cast. Now I’ve never seen the all-Japanese original so I sadly can’t compare the two but I’ve heard that this 2004 version isn’t half as scary. I’ve gotta say that, apart from a couple of brief moments, I didn’t suffer too many chills down my spine during its 98 minutes duration.

This film stars Sarah Michelle Gellar (of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fame) who plays an American nurse called Karen working in Tokyo. A series of mysterious deaths occur at a house in Aoyama which sadly (for a locations buff like me anyway!) can’t be visited as it was just built on a soundstage at Toho Studios. She then encounters the supernatural spirit which possess the victims, claim their souls and pass on the curse to some other poor b*stard! To be honest its pretty hard to give too much of a sh*t about deaths of people you don’t ever really get to have much, if any affection for and that includes Gellar who is given a surprising lack of screen time given what I said a moment ago about her being the star.

 

‘The Grudge’ shows a series of vaguely connected events in a non-linear narrative and contains all the usual horror film trademarks such as black cats, shadows, creepy noises, creeking doors, slamming doors, lifts, attics, haunting music, mirror reflections, scary sound effects, books which turn pages automatically and it is for this reason that I was a bit disappointed with the film as it just doesn’t bring anything new to the horror genre. Having said that, my expectations before watching it were low so in one sense I didn’t actually mind it! Furthermore, as beautiful as Japanese girls are, they sure do make scary villains which I guess must have something to do with their long black hair.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time this last year trying to work out some of the locations of this movie for there is very little information on the internet regarding exact sets. The places I have successfully identified include the University which Karen and Doug attend and the restaurant where the latter works. The University is in Takaido (on the Inokashira line which runs between Kichijoji and Shibuya) and is actually a medical college. The restaurant is called Fungo Dining and can be found in Nishi Shinjuku and is where a scared Karen turns up leading to Doug asking his boss if he could go home early. Exciting stuff! Far more interesting is the building where a guy tops himself in the movies opening moments and I was most surprised to learn that this took place by Yanagibashi bridge where the Kanda and Sumida rivers meet; a place I was at back in April when I cycled the length of the river in one day.

 

I have a strong interest in films set in Japan (hence the title of these reviews!) but if it wasn’t for this fact I don’t think I’d be too fussed about the film. There must have been some interest there though as it spawned two sequels with the first one also taking place in Tokyo which I will no doubt review one day!

 

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