Extended Director's Cut
Review by Michael Jacobson
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Kadee Strickland, Clea Duvall, Bill
Pullman, Grace Zabriskie
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: May 17, 2005
boss told me what happened…I’m sorry.”
not even sure what DID happen.”
old woman passed away in her sleep. It’s
sad, but that’s the way it is.”
how they’re saying she died?”
reason Sam Raimi was always a great horror filmmaker is simply that he truly
loves the genre. He wasn’t one of
those up and coming slicksters who started on low-budget scare flicks just to
try and drum up some attention for himself so he could move on to bigger and
better things. That’s why I’m
pleased to see that despite the blockbuster bonanzas of the two Spider-Man movies,
Raimi continues to work to show new horror visions on the screen.
recently re-teamed with original Evil Dead producer Rob Tapert to bring The
Grudge to American horror films. Both
were fans of the original Japanese version as directed by Takashi Shimizu, who
has become something of a horror legend in his native country.
But both were concerned that the distinctly Japanese style of horror he
produced wouldn’t translate to American audiences.
So their idea was to have Shimizu remake his own movie with some American
leads and craft something more palatable for Western tastes.
I couldn’t help feeling something got lost in translation (no pun intended).
The Grudge is a film with plenty of good, solid and imaginative
scares, but suffers from weak, uninvolving characters and a fractured storyline
that doesn’t quite make the whole concept gel. The best part about
this extended director's cut is that you get about 7 extra minutes of
footage. Some of it is quite graphic and unsettling, but key bits make the
structure a little more sound, and certain parts that didn't quite make sense
before (at least in my eyes) became a little clearer.
The best part about this extended director's cut is that you get about 7 extra minutes of footage. Some of it is quite graphic and unsettling, but key bits make the structure a little more sound, and certain parts that didn't quite make sense before (at least in my eyes) became a little clearer.
Horror is more challenging than most people might believe. I love to write, and always wanted to write a good horror story. The problem is that you can sit around a dream up scenarios that are frightening and effective…but at the end of the day, you need some sort of string to hold it all together and make it cohesive. The Grudge plays as though they scripted and filmed their scary ideas and weren't all that concerned with how it would all play in the structure of a plotline. The extended version offers a little more glue for the fabric, but not enough to pull it all together in a fully satisfying way.
Michelle Gellar, a veteran of horror at a young age, plays Karen Davis, an
American exchange student in Japan. While
working to get a social welfare credit, she ends up in a strange house caring
for a frequently zoned out old lady (Zabriskie), who rarely speaks and stares
into space for hours.
problem is, of course, that the house is haunted…cursed would be a better
word. As the opening titles
explain, if someone dies in an extreme state of rage or sorrow, the emotion
remains behind. Then, anyone who
comes in contact with their place of death becomes affected.
story focuses on Karen, then aborts to tell the story of Peter (Pullman), a
professor who seemed to make an untimely exit in the first few moments of the
film (but you figured a guy like Bill Pullman wouldn’t be brought into a movie
for only a minute of screen time). Then
we go back to Karen. Then we go to
the story of the people who recently bought the house and what happened to them.
Then Karen again. Then, at
the last moment, we finally get a rushed-through version explaining what’s
fine with non-linear storytelling as long as it serves the overall story.
The Grudge feels more like the filmmakers kept reaching points and
then thinking they’d better go back and explain certain things before the
audience gets lost. The problem is, we do get lost…not because we can’t
follow the story, but because the hatcheted-up narrative prevents us from
getting involved in any segment of the tale.
There’s real tragedy in the back story, but we don’t get close enough
these complaints officially logged, I do have to give credit and say the movie
is effective at its central purpose, which is to scare.
This is arguably a more frightening film than The Ring, also an
Americanized version of a Japanese horror hit.
But it’s less satisfying overall because of the lack of cohesion.
Yet there are plenty of moments that will rock you back in your seat,
including some not seen in the theatrical version, and
at least one sequence that had me, a grown man, cringing in my seat…as much as
I love horror movies, that’s a rare experience for me.
DVD supplements explain the mythology behind Japanese horror a little better,
and will add to some appreciation of the movie, but it also points out another
critical flaw…a movie should be self-contained and able to communicate all of
its ideas as it plays in front of you. The
moment cast and crew members need to offer explanations, you realize somebody
ultimately, there are about an equal number of aspects about the film that merit
recommendation as criticism. I
wouldn’t refrain from recommending it to anyone who wants a good scare or
two…as long as that’s the only thing he or she wants.
is a generally well-done anamorphic transfer where many beautiful, detailed,
colorful scenes are offset by bits of noticeable grain, dinginess and
compression. Many of the
fade-to-black shots show lines or haze, and many of the darker images lose
contrast and sharpness. However,
the many daylit scenes of Tokyo are completely gorgeous and alive with detail
is all about the sound, isn’t it? And
in this case, there are absolutely no complaints. Columbia Tri Star has delivered an impressive and impactful
5.1 mix that ranges from the most subtle pieces of ambience to the most
in-your-face noises and music cues. The
surround use is impressive; when the going gets good, there are creepy tones
coming at you from all directions…you won’t feel safe.
Dynamic range is incredibly potent, and spoken words are clean and clear
This extended cut has a generous, but different, set of extras than the original release, so if you're a fan of what that disc had to offer, you might want to keep it around.
The cast and crew commentary is replaced by a new one featuring director Takashi Shimizu, producer Taka Ichise, and actress Takako Fuji. While the former commentary was a more fun listen, this new one gets more into the substance of making the film and offers insights on what constitutes a scary movie for Japanese audiences.
are 15 deleted scenes with optional filmmaker commentary, Shimizu's two original
short films that evolved into The Grudge, video diaries from Sarah
Michelle Gellar and KaDee Strickland, a tour of the film's house, plus
production design sketches and storyboards.