Horror repeats itself

“The Grudge” simplifies a complex plot in favor of more creepiness

Claire Joseph

Director Takashi Shimizu has what many directors dream of: a second chance at the same film.

Shimizu’s previous effort in the complicated Japanese horror film, “Ju-On,” is at the helm of its U.S. remake, “The Grudge.”

In remaking “Ju-On,” Shimizu was able to appeal to U.S. viewers and, more importantly, to clear up problems in the original.

The problems in “Ju-On” stemmed from its confusing plot line. Some of that ambiguity led to a more suspense-filled experience, but much of it cluttered the main story.

Both films are about the Japanese belief that when a person dies in a state of powerful emotion, the emotion stays in the house long after the death.

The plot, like a Shakespearean tragedy, involves good characters who are destroyed by their seemingly insignificant faults; in this case, their fault is naivete.

Unlike each film’s characters, Shimizu had the opportunity to recognize his past faults and change them in hopes of a more successful outcome.

Shimizu does not take full advantage of his opportunity.

“The Grudge,” a more straightforward film, generally stays true to its Japanese counterpart. But even with a slightly more coherent plot, the problems of “Ju-On” are still present.

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an exchange student who works at a welfare care clinic in Tokyo. She is asked to fill in at a patient’s home where she finds the owner in a catatonic state lying on the floor.

Later, Karen hears sounds behind a duct-taped-shut closet door. She opens the ominous door and releases a big- eyed young boy and his black cat.

An evil is freed as well, killing the patient and leaving Karen in a state of shock.

When revived, Karen finds that, three years prior, in a fit of jealous rage, a man killed his wife, son and then himself in the home.

Since then, the evil of the event has lingered in the house, killing everyone who enters.

The film mimics classic horror film scenes. A creepy “Exorcist” crawl down the stairs, a “Psycho” shower sequence and “The Ring’s” ability to interfere with technology contribute to a sense of deja vu.

Shimizu falls short in both films in his lack of clarity and verisimilitude. Even with a willing suspension of disbelief, the film’s ambiguity will prove more than just suspense-activating. A viewer of either film will struggle to make sense of the story and, more so, its point.

“The Grudge”

Directed by: Takashi Shimizu

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea DuVall

Rated: PG-13

Now showing at area theaters