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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Grudge is a 2004 horror movie about a house possessed by the ghosts of those killed inside it. There's horror imagery galore in this one -- enough to give sensitive viewers of any age nightmares. A murder-suicide is shown in a flashback scene in which a man drowns his son in a tub and murders his wife before hanging himself. Bodies are found in an attic. A broken lower jaw is found on the floor. However, the scariness should be counterbalanced by the clearly forced plot points in the movie: the kind so prevalent in cheesier horror movies best exemplified by that audience member in the theater who yells, "Just leave the haunted house!" Some of the characters smoke cigarettes.
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What's the story?
An American exchange student (Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen) in Japan is sent out as a substitute for the caregiver of a woman suffering from some dementia. The woman is an American, living with her son and daughter-in-law, and with a daughter living nearby. It turns out that the house was once the site of great rage and anguish, giving rise to a curse that attacks anyone who enters.
Is it any good?
THE GRUDGE is one of those "Don't go into the house" movies, a remake of a popular Japanese horror film by Takashi Shimizu, the writer/director of the original. Shimizu makes good use of shifts in time to pull us into what little story there is. The usual ghost activities (messing up the house, stalking people) are updated a little bit. These ghosts can call a cell phone and get from the lobby to the 16th floor very quickly. There are some creepy images and gotcha scares, but nothing can disguise the fact that this is just a "who gets it next and how does he get it" movie. Too much of it is familiar, though, from the mysteriously feral child to the backwards-crab-crawling guy looking horrified at some looming presence. You know if a bloody jaw with teeth shows up, eventually we're going to have to find out where it came from.
Indeed, the biggest problem with the film is that, like many American remakes, it feels it has to explain too much. We get a helpful little ghost re-enactment of the whole story. Horror movies are much more horrifying when they leave the explanation to that part of our imagination where our own deepest fears lie, so that each of us can feel personally unsettled right where we live.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the enduring appeal of ghost stories and their own views on whether strong emotions can continue to "occupy" a place. They might also want to find out more about efforts to investigate real-life reports of ghosts and curses.
This was a remake of a Japanese film, made by the same director. Why do you think the movie was remade, and what would be the challenges in not only remaking a movie, but also remaking a movie that you, the director, have already made?
A trope of the "haunted house" horror movie is that the characters, unlike anyone else with the least bit of common sense, don't flee the house posthaste after the first scary moment, but instead choose to investigate further. Why do horror movie writers allow their characters to have such poor judgment?
- In theaters: October 22, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2005
- Cast: Jason Behr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, William Mapother
- Director: Takashi Shimizu
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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