The Grudgrilogy by Frank Marmoset
When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage… A curse is born.
The curse gathers in that place of death.
Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury.
And then they will make nine films about it.
But Frank will only review the three American ones… Because he’s lazy and too dumb for subtitles.
The Grudge: A Fistful Of Grudges (2004)
The Grudge is an American remake of the Japanese horror film Ju-on: The Grudge, which was itself a remake of the earlier Japanese film Ju-on. All three versions were directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed Ju-on 2, Ju-on: The Grudge 2, and The Grudge 2. So, what I’m noticing here is, this guy loves him some grudge. Grudging is his business and business is good. He’s the OG: Original Grudgster. In the movie of his life, he’d be played by Grudge Reinhold.
Alright, that’s enough of that.
This film (the remake of the remake of the original) stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as a tiny cute blonde woman working in Japan. On the first day of her new job she encounters three angry Japanese ghosts: a woman (Kayako), her young son (Toshio), and their pet cat (name unknown – let‘s call him Mittens). Pretty soon Gellar gets seriously grudgified. These ghosts are grudgy as hell as they‘re not going to take it anymore! By which I mean they’re going to crawl around with long spooky hair all over the place, make weird belchy sounds, scare the bejesus out of Ms Gellar, and kill Ted Raimi (the Clint Howard of the Raimi family).
The Grudge uses a fractured narrative, intertwining several plot threads from several timeframes. It’s a clever way to explain how these ghosts became so grudgy without too much exposition, but because we never spend enough time with any one character I found it hard to care about any of them. Even Gellar, who’s perfectly good as the ostensible lead, doesn’t have enough screen time to develop into an engaging protagonist.
But a bigger problem – and this is not the film’s fault – is that I don’t find ghosts threatening as movie monsters. I prefer a knife-wielding lunatic or an asshole animal, and The Grudge’s vengeful spirits (with the exception of Mittens the cat) don’t fit into either of those categories. This indifference to the subject matter coupled with the unengaging characters meant The Grudge dragged along with all the urgency and excitement of a melancholic tortoise for me.
It’s also a very drab film – more slow moving and po-faced than I prefer my horror to be. After awhile it felt like the cinematic equivalent of clinical depression. First, a general malaise set in, then my interest began to wane, feelings of hopelessness and despair settled into my bones, and pretty soon I just wanted it all to be over. Thankfully, the end came after only ninety-five minutes, at which point the clouds parted, the sun shone down, birds twittered, squirrels made merry in the trees, and I didn’t have to jump off a building or anything.
It’s over! The grudgery is over!
Oh, no, wait. There are two more of these things!
The Grudge 2: For A Few Grudges More (2006)
This sequel to the remake of the remake (or is it the remake of the sequel to the remake?) sees Kayako, Toshio and Mittens return to get their grudge on again. When it comes to spectral vengeance, they’re the grudge, grury and grexecutioner. They wanna grudge you up. And then possibly go out for a chocolate grudge sundae.
Amber Tamblyn takes the lead this time as the sister of Sarah Michelle Grudger’s character from part one. Amber heads to Japan to find out what happened to her tiny cute blonde sibling, but I bet you can guess what she gets for her troubles. That’s right, she gets well and truly grudged.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to address a lingering question I have from part one:
Why the hell is the cat mixed up in all this?
Humans becoming vengeful spirits after being brutally murdered makes a certain amount of sense, but could a common house cat ever be sufficiently motivated to take ghostly revenge after a wrongful death? Cats, in my experience, are possibly the most lazy creatures on the face of the Earth (that’s why they’re awesome), and it seems to me a cat would much rather lick itself for all eternity in kitty heaven than help a couple of angry ghost humans kill people. But if cats do come back as ghosts, does this mean there are other angry ghost animals, such as ghost hammerhead sharks, ghost tarantulas, and (most importantly) ghost monkeys who fling ghost poop? Because if it does, I would very much like to see a film about that last one.
As to the film itself, my main criticism is that it sent me to sleep twice in less than ninety minutes. At first I thought it was some kind of trick, like maybe the disc gave off an anaesthetic gas whenever it was played, but when I complained about this to the guy at Blockbuster he looked at me funny and asked how much paste I’d eaten today. So, assuming Blockbuster is not conspiring to secretly drug viewers of The Grudge 2 and steal their snacks while they’re snoozing, I have to conclude that this film is even more dreary and unengaging than the first one. Or maybe I was just sleepy.
The Grudge 3: The Good, The Bad & The Grudgy (2009)
The Grudge 2 ended with angry ghost Kayako travelling all the way to the United States of America, presumably intent on turning it into the United States of Grudgmerica. Her new favourite song is America The Grudgiful. She is annoyed about all the Mexicans stealing her grudges, and she is definitely not happy that her tax dollars are funding the President’s ObamaGrudge initiative.
Damn interfering politicians! The right to bear grudges is a vital part of the grudgstitution! It’s the second agrudgement!
The story picks up where part two ended, and this time those bad mothergrudgers are pestering the residents of a Chicago apartment building and Shawnee Smith from the Saw series. Meanwhile, Kayako’s sister Naoko arrives in the US with a plan to put an end to the grudgery once and for all.
Curiously absent from this instalment is Mittens the angry ghost cat. Seems to me, there are three possible reasons for this. 1) He made his peace with his untimely death and moved on to kitty heaven. 2) He was distracted by an angry ghost mouse, which he spent the whole film chasing. 3) He got stuck in angry ghost quarantine after the trip from Japan. Whatever the reason, I missed the little guy, and I would very much like to see him get a spin-off. If anyone from Ghost House Pictures is reading this review, I volunteer my services as writer of The Adventures Of Mittens The Grudge Cat (provided I’m allowed to include an angry ghost monkey in the story).
What you get with The Grudge 3 is your typical DTV sequel, which is to say it’s a retread of the first two films that’s hampered by a lack of money and style. Grudges 1 and 2 might not have been my cup of tea but they had an undeniable sense of atmosphere and the ghosts looked effectively creepy. In this one, Kayako and Toshio look like cheap parody versions of themselves. It’s a shame, because the director’s previous film was Splinter, which was a solid little low budget horror, but this is a step down in quality for him and for the series.
Well, that’s it for The Grudge. Part three was apparently the final instalment of the saga, and there are no current plans to bring back Kayako, Toshio and Mittens for further spooky grudgventures. But I’m not sure I believe that. This is the horror business, and in the horror business there’s always room for one more sequel, and then another eight more sequels after that, one of which will almost certainly star Lance Henriksen. So I’m positive we’ll be seeing more of the grudgy ghosts at some point, especially when you consider the wise and immortal words of Dr Hook:
“When you think I’ve grudged you all I can,
I’m going to grudge you a little bit more.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this review grudgertaining, and maybe even a little grudgucational. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. I think I just grudged myself.