The Grudge (2004)

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Released 2-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Cast And Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Powerful Rage
Featurette-Under The Skin
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 87:39
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Takashi Shimizu
Studio
Distributor
Ghost House Pictures
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar
Jason Behr
William Mapother
Clea DuVall
Kadee Strickland
Grace Zabriskie
Bill Pullman
Rosa Blasi
Ted Raimi
Ryo Ishibashi
Yoko Maki
Yuya Ozeki
Takako Fuji
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Christopher Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The recent Hollywood trend that began with the success of The Ring starring Naomi Watts, a remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu, has yielded some interesting English versions and the remake conveyor looks like it is far from stopping. This year will see the release of Dark Water, starring Jennifer Connelly, followed by Watts' return in The Ring 2. The Grudge is the brainchild of filmmaker Takashi Shimizu and began in Japan as Ju-on; a pair of straight-to-video films with a minor cult following. A successful telemovie followed, which led to the production of Ju-on: The Grudge and its sequel.

    Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has recently moved to Japan in order to be with her boyfriend (Jason Behr) and is finding it tough to settle in. The city is huge and daunting, even though she possesses a little knowledge of the language. Things start to look up when she secures a position as a replacement care-worker, a position particularly ideal for her as the family is English speaking. Her patient is virtually catatonic and lives in a house that is large for a Japanese dwelling, she is mute and unable to care for herself in any way. When Karen crosses the threshold of the house she instantly recognises that something is wrong. What curse does the house contain and why are its occupants disappearing? The lives of many strangers will cross paths and meet a disturbing end, all because they entered that house.

    The whole story here is not told chronologically, rather it opens with the demise of a main character and proceeds in a non-linear fashion to explain the events that led up to that opening scene. The structure may be a little confusing to those who are not aware of this in advance, but if you give it time the progression of scenes makes sense. I've watched this film several times now and I still recognise pieces of continuity that I didn't pick up the first time around. It's one of those films that rewards multiple viewings.

    For those not familiar with the history of this franchise, writer and director Takashi Shimizu was invited by Hollywood heavyweight Sam Raimi to make this English version based on the strength of his Japanese language films. This English language remake not only includes the same director, but was produced in Tokyo and includes much of the same crew. You need not be familiar with the original Ju-on films to appreciate or understand what is going on, in fact it may be preferable. This English version is effectively a compilation of scenes taken from Shimizu's Ju-on films and the surprisingly good telemovie (sometimes referred to as The Curse), strung together with the same theme involving the house and its former occupants. A few small tweaks have been made to make the concept more palatable for western audiences, but I would say that the result is largely faithful to the original but not as terrifying.

    Being familiar with the original films by Shimizu, my most striking issue with this English version is the use of considerably less confronting imagery, in fact although it is still successful when it comes to the scare factor there is less use of the kind of scenes that make you want to turn your head in peril. As a whole, this version is quite tame when compared to the Japanese original. The commentary included in this disc's extras discusses the release of an extended Director's Cut, which will be released in an unrated form in Region 1. I look forward to seeing this cut released in Region 4, with a better transfer I hope.

    At the time of writing, a follow-up is in production and is scheduled for a theatrical release in 2006. The cast has not been confirmed, but if the sequel were to remain true to the original the character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar would not be present.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is rough around the edges, mainly due to the nature of the film source. Compared to the quality of other transfers of recent productions this is an average effort. The transfer is presented in the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This is relatively close to the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is no windowboxing present, so the entire 16x9 frame is filled.

    The main protagonist within the transfer is film grain, greatly affecting the level of detail in the transfer and making the overall appearance somewhat dated. This could arguably have been the director's intention, however it makes for lousy viewing on a big screen. I had no issues with the depth of shadow detail and considering the great many dark scenes in the film blacks are very well handled. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    There doesn't appear to have been any colour manipulation performed in post production. Besides, this certainly isn't an overly bright film with big splashes of colour - most costumes and sets are bland so as to not draw attention away from the performances. That said, there are no instances of oversaturation or blooming present and skin tones appear realistic and consistently rendered.

    MPEG artefacting was nowhere to be seen. The video bitstream is encoded at a healthy rate of 7.3Mb/s, with a few occasional dips where the transfer fades to black. Some distinct moire effect can be seen at 57:54 on the television speaker grille, and indeed I found the movement of this artefact quite distracting. Aliasing is moderate throughout. The most conspicuous examples I noted were within the detail of Sarah Michelle Gellar's knitted clothing at 11:23 and again at 57:34 during a close-up of a computer monitor.

     Small film artefacts are present throughout in the form of positive and negative specks of dust and dirt, but are not too obtrusive. Surprisingly, I recognised several damaged frames of film beginning at 69:20 which lasted for a few seconds. The damage occupies the far left portion of the frame and occurs in a darkened moment of the film, so it does stand out a bit. The film grain issue in this transfer is similarly annoying. While I am content with some film grain to a certain degree whether it be for artistic reasons or not, this transfer has some scenes literally crawling with film grain, most noticeable in expanses of grey. When viewed on my 76cm widescreen television the grain is noticeable, however when projected the images are distracting to say the least.

    Subtitles are burned into the video stream for the translation of some, but not all of the Japanese dialogue. There are quite a few lines of Japanese throughout the film, but it would appear only those that are pertinent to the story are covered. If you're after a full translation of every word, don't bother turning on the English hard of hearing subtitles, because they don't translate them either. The selectable subtitle stream transcribes the English dialogue well and includes bracketed descriptions of the soundtrack, as with most other hard of hearing streams. The subtitle stream was activated by default on my system.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9 formatted), with the layer transition placed during the feature at 65:45. The layer change is perfectly situated during a silent fade to black between scenes and is virtually unnoticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD, one of which is a commentary from the cast and crew. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo option is included (320Kb/s). I listened to the entire Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack several times and sampled the stereo alternative periodically.

    The English dialogue is always distinct and easy to follow. The ADR is generally accurate although I found a couple of moments that didn't quite match lip movements, such as at 17:38 for Sarah Michelle Gellar's line "he wont come down". Audio sync is problem free.

    The use of the surround channels is most often atmospheric and enveloping, although there are a few occasions of dedicated usage. The score is often carried in the rears and often strikes with a burst from behind. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely pan outward.

    The stereo option is a decent alternative if you're not surround capable, but I don't really see the point of its inclusion on this disc. Most people who view films in stereo will watch the film with its default soundtrack and rely on their player to perform a mixdown to two channels rather than change the soundtrack manually. You may be interested to know that besides some slight presence of the score in the rear channels, the Dolby Digital 2.0 stream didn't respond favourably to Pro Logic processing.

    The thing that struck me most about the 5.1 mix is the limited use of the guttural, throaty noise emitted by the former occupant of the house (for want of avoiding a spoiler). The overseas DVD releases of the Japanese Ju-on films (which feature dts, I might add) have a much more aggressive and consuming use of this effect, swirling about the viewer in a disorienting fashion. On another note, I was surprised to learn that this creepy sound is performed by the director himself.

    The film's score is credited to Christopher Young and is in keeping with the child-like innocence one can feel in the originals. The score flows parallel with the film and never becomes overpowering.

    The subwoofer is used to augment certain effects and on some occasions to shock the viewer. The best example of dedicated subwoofer usage I found was at 70:46 as a wall is hit repeatedly with a loud thud. In short, the LFE channel is used sparingly, but effectively to enhance the surround experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a good handful of bonus material, all of which is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. All of the disc's content is 16x9 enhanced.

Menu

    The menu pages are animated in a similar style to the film's opening credits, accompanied by an audio clip from the score.

Audio Commentary (Cast & Crew)

    Recorded in November of 2004, this commentary is attended by brothers Ted and Sam Raimi, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clea DuVall, Screenwriter Stephen Susco, actors Jason Behr and Kadee Strictland and Producer Rob Tapert. The group is recorded together with plenty of interaction, making it much more preferable to a sterile cut and paste of different sessions that we often see in group commentaries. A lot of the information presented here is reproduced in the featurettes, but it is worthwhile viewing nonetheless.

    A lot of area is covered by the group - issues such as the challenges related to the script and adapting the story for a western audience, the communication hurdles that were faced when working with a Japanese crew and how the cast and crew were allowed a lot of time for socialising and sightseeing in Tokyo. Many deleted scenes are discussed, as well as the intention to release the unrated Shimizu director's cut in Region 1. Sam Raimi comments that when compared to the theatrical release the length only differs by three minutes but the rooftop scene between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryo Ishibashi is omitted. I would expect the director's cut to be a lot more confronting than the theatrical version, so there's certainly something to look forward to.

Featurette - A Powerful Rage: Behind The Grudge (47:40)

    Sam Raimi opens this featurette with some explanation of his motives behind this remake, and how he came to discover the original. Interviewees include Bill Pullman and Sarah Michelle Gellar, attempting to explain the film's non-linear structure and its foundation in Japanese folklore. Actress Grace Zabriskie speaks highly of the director and helps us gain some appreciation for the difficulties that were encountered concerning the language barrier on the set. While there are no chapter stops, the rather lengthy featurette is separated into distinct sections covering the film's development, production and background.

    This featurette includes some valuable contributions from filmmaker Takashi Shimizu, Production Designer Iwao Saito and actors Ryo Ishibashi and Yoko Maki. For reasons not explained, none of their Japanese dialogue is translated. Some of the statements are quite lengthy, particularly from Shimizu and Ishibashi, but this reviewer was left waving his arms in the air in sheer frustration. Strangely, in the credits for this featurette translators are credited (four people in fact) - perhaps the subtitle stream was misplaced somewhere? This oversight is very, very annoying and negates any worthwhile contribution the Japanese crew could have made to this making-of.

Featurette - Under The Skin (12:26)

    Joseph LeDoux is a professor of neural science and psychology with some knowledge of the horror genre. Combined with excerpts from the film, the professor goes to some length to explain the human fear response, the triggers that cause a fearful reaction and why people gain joy from exposing themselves to scary films. Joseph has also written a number of books on the subject which are given ample screen time. Thankfully it doesn't dive into infomercial territory, but it's a plug all the same.

Theatrical Trailer (1:20)

    This is a straightforward introduction to the film, establishing the concept and major cast members while offering a few glimpses of the film's tense moments.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Judging by other reviews, the Region 1 disc is similar in content, but only contains additional language options. Also, the video bitrate is considerably lower at only 4.5Mb/s. Region 4 misses out on:

    No big deal there, but in comparison to the Region 3 Hong Kong disc, Region 4 misses out on:

    The Region 3 disc does not contain any commentary or featurettes. If I were you, I'd wait for the Director's Cut.

    UPDATE- May 2005: The Region 1 Director's Cut includes:

Summary

    The Grudge is an interesting reworking of Shimizu's earlier films and while it succeeds in its delivery it doesn't possess the same punch as the original material. If you enjoyed The Ring or Dark Water, then this is likely to be up your alley.

    The video transfer is fair, but I have come to expect better of such recent productions.

    The audio transfer is enveloping and succeeds in creating the right atmosphere.

    The extras consist of a lengthy making-of, the value of which is betrayed by the lack of any translation for the Japanese contributors.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony B
The DVD Bits - Allan H

Comments (Add)
What's up with the no subtitles for Shimizu and crew? - Christopher REPLY POSTED
The Grudge Unrated edition at DVDAnswers - Christopher
Bad Review - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Failures to discourage parallel importing, part seven billion... - Anonymous
Local release of The Grudge Director's Cut? - Christopher REPLY POSTED
Is the R1 "Director's Cut" actually a different cut ? - Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED
Thanks for the reply, Rob. - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Very scary - Mark X (read my bio)
I Love This Movie! - Solari
R1 Director's Cut/Japan Theatrical Cut - Christopher