31 January 2016





Oh boy, are we gonna have some fun now...! I had the time of my life recently watching these two remakes of the original 2002 film back-to-back for my best friend's birthday. I went to bed as spooked as a cat on a hot tin roof, but I'd enjoyed the heck out of both films so no harm, no foul.

Takashi Shimizu, the creator of the whole shooting match, directs both remakes so they're as authentic as the 'Mammy Dinners' you got when you were living at home. Remember those...? What's even cooler, if that's possible, is that Sam THE EVIL DEAD Raimi lends his name to the whole kit 'n' kaboodle. His EVIL DEAD trilogy of horror films starring Bruce Campbell have got to be seen to be believed and, trust me, once seen, you'll never forget 'em.

The first film is just a straightforward reworking of the original JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, with the surprise addition of Bill Pullman as the man on whom poor Kayako has an unrequited crush. Why, Mr. President, this is such an honour...! Yeah, the played the top banana of the US of A in Roland Emmerich's blockbuster INDEPENDENCE DAY. Prez or no Prez, however, it doesn't prevent him from falling afoul of the putrid Curse that infects everyone that comes into contact with it.

Let's go back to the beginning, shall we? When someone dies in great sorrow or rage, for example, when they're horribly murdered as in Kayako's case, the strong emotion surrounding the death lingers in the place where the tragedy occurred. It becomes a 'stain' on the place and curses everyone and anyone who comes near it. As a member of the sex legendary for holding long-time grudges, I can categorically state that that is some mighty fine grudge-holding right there.

THE GRUDGE sees Sarah Michelle Gellar, aka BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, playing a student care worker studying in Japan whose job it is to visit the murder house and give a hand to the bedridden elderly woman who lives there. The glamorous Buffy is a most unlikely candidate indeed for wiping the old lady's behind and mopping her sweaty armpits. It's just not quite believable casting, if you know what I mean, and she doesn't exactly get stuck into it, either. Too good for that kind of menial task, eh? The little princess...!

For those who've never seen any of the films before, a woman called Kayako and her little son Toshio (oh, and even their pet moggy!) were all brutally slaughtered by Kayako's hubby Takeo when he suspected his wife of infidelity. Poor Kayako, she had the indiscretion to write about her undying love for- in this film- Bill Pullman in her journal.

I can't imagine harbouring an undying love for Bill Pullman. He's such a bland, boring beige kind of person. Okay, so I could be doing him a grievous wrong. He could be the kind of guy who'd throw you down on the bed and tear your clothes of with his gnashers like a horny Orc. I just can't picture it though, can you guys? Still, each to their own, I suppose. There's no accounting for taste and all that jazz. If Kayako loves the bones of him, then there must be something about the fellow, I suppose.

Anyway, after the massacre of his family, Takeo then took his own life. All of the family's tortured spirits (even the moggy's!) linger in the closets and the attic of the deliciously spooky house, which is said to be the most haunted dwelling in all of Japan. I can totally believe it! They take out their anger, or grudge, on anyone who comes to the house.

The horrible curse then spreads and weaves its slimy tentacles around everyone who's connected
to everyone who comes in the house. Thus it works its way ever outwards. It wraps itself around Buffy and her rather drippy boyfriend, architecture student Doug, and everyone they come into contact with. I can't say I'm sorry, really, as I don't much care for either of 'em, I must say. No personality, no gumption.

 I do like, however, that Ted Raimi, Sam's younger brother, plays Buffy's supervisor, Alex, in the film. His scene with Yoko, the care worker whom Buffy replaced, is one of the creepiest in the film.

The house, which features in both films, is fantastic. I personally wouldn't set foot in it for all the tea in China. It looks like something out of one of those ABANDONED PLACES posts you see on Facebook. Creepy, mouldy, silent, positively oozing with evil. You'd think people would stay away from it in droves. In droves. But no, quite the opposite, in fact.

They practically queue up to tour the murder house. Despite everyone in the film warning everyone else to not go in the house, they go in the house in, well, their droves. As I said. One of the scariest things about the house is that everyone who enters it gets to see a little vignette or snapshot from the murdered family's final hours. Or the final hours of other people who came in the house, despite being warned or even bloody well begged to stay away. Some folk just don't know what's good for them.

Bit by bit, in a non-linear fashion, the whole story is pieced together. I must say, this English version is probably a bit easier to follow than the original Japanese film. I certainly feel I have a better grasp of the whole concept now after seeing this remake. The remake gets a bad press, despite being a box office smash. Naturally, fans of the original JU-ON: THE GRUDGE will be a bit sniffy about it, but I think it's quite a good film, though. I really enjoyed it.

That being said, though, I much, much much preferred THE GRUDGE 2. I think it's a better, scarier, more exciting and all-round more gripping film. It tells the story of Buffy's younger sister Aubrey. She is sent to Japan from America by their mum to find out exactly what the hell's been going on with Buffy since she entered the murder house and, apparently, set it on fire... Why...?

This film brings in Kayako's mother, of all people. It turns out that she was not a good mother. I'm gagging to tell you in what way she was a lousy mum and how her actions may have affected Kayako but I'm trying not to spoil the film for you. Let's just say, however, that it's a wonder Kayako hasn't avenged herself on her mum before now.

After all, if you've got the power to go around avenging yourself on people, you surely might as well include anyone who's dissed you over the years. That boss who grabbed your tits every time you squeezed past him in the supplies cupboard, the friend who stole your bloke, the mum who crammed you full of... Well, there now, I've said too much.

There are two absolutely brilliant storylines running simultaneously here, as well as the one involving Aubrey, the sister. In Japan, we have the two bitchy, slutty schoolgirls who think it would be a big hilarious jape to bring the new girl at school to the murder house and lock her in the closet leading to Kayako's attic, the one where her poor broken body was wrapped in plastic and dumped by her husband. As you can imagine, the outcome of their immature actions is far from humorous. I mean, you can imagine that, can't you...? Of course you can.

I've much more sympathy for Kayako, by the way, now that I've seen these two remakes. Her story is told in much more detail and everything about her is explained in simple terms, everything from why she's always crawling face-first down the winding staircase to why she makes that hideous croaking noise. After the original film, I admit that I was left somewhat baffled and I felt little or no compassion for the poor wronged wife. These films flesh her out much more, which is great.

The other fantastic storyline is the one involving the Kimbles, an ordinary American family who move into their new apartment building (in America, mind you, a long way from Japan) only to find that some unspeakable evil is lurking just a few doors down the corridor. What is it and, maybe more importantly, how the bloody hell did it get there...? Some very clever writing indeed wraps up this storyline in a manner that totally blew me away.

I understand that these films come in for some serious slagging but quite honestly, I don't see why they should. They're terrific fun and, in the way they fill in so many of the gaps from the
original Japanese film, they're pretty much an invaluable addition to the whole GRUDGE canon. As Kent Brockman might say, that's my two cents, anyway.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline.You can contact her at:


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