Saturday, December 18, 2004
THE GRUDGE: Making That Perfect Adaptation
By Reymundo Salao
The GRUDGE is absolutely chilling, it has that creepy sensibility that justifies the original version. I usually have that unfavorable opinion about the recent American/Hollywood remakes of foreign films such as the remake of "Taxi", which was originally a fun-filled-ride-of-a-film from France, and "The Ring", which was awfully copied from the Japanese horror classic "Ringu". The fatal mistake of the producers of "The Ring" which makes it a weak adaptation that does not satisfy the reputation of the original, was that they thought they could make a better movie out of the Ringu concept, completely rewriting the storyline, forcing their own Hollywood brains into the material. It is as if the producers were trying to take credit for what was originally NOT their concept. (Moving on, and enough talk about the Ring,) THE GRUDGE, on the other hand, triumphs and does justice with the original Japanese version (The Grudge / "JU-ON"), because it does not attempt to diminish the standing reputation of what has been established. It never fails to acknowledge the Japanese aspect of what originally is Japanese. I knew that watching it from Cinema 6 of the Robinson's Movieworld was such a treat since it's the one with the great surround speakers, that effectively translates the life-like audio of the film.
First of all, on the purely basic, the producers of the film did what was best: get the director of the original version. The director is the captain of the movie; he is the visionary that guides what or how the movie should look. He knows the entire feel of a movie. And attempting to create a perfect adaptation for a film, would be hiring the director of the original. That director is Takashi Shimizu. Whose style made this film an enhanced version of the original, it may even serve as a serious sequel to the timeline of the original "Grudge / Ju-on" series of films. The second wise step in making this adaptation was never to change the setting. Other adaptations prefer to rewrite and re-conceptualize the entire original work and fit it into an American setting. The sense of it may be in order to let the American audience have a better grasp of the movie without some cultural alienation. But then again, we Filipinos, among other cultures are also audiences to these movies, and there's nothing wrong with minor cultural differences. Ultimately, if they plan to re-conceptualize the original, what's the point of claiming such film as an ADAPTATION? THE GRUDGE respects the setting of the original and has taken on the same actors, actresses, and characters, even the same house used in the original.
The film is set in Japan, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Karen Davis, an American who was drawn to a house where she was temporarily assigned to be the caretaker, and discovers that there have been serious ghost hauntings, mysterious disappearances, and inexplicable deaths. While the original "JU-ON" seemed to be more of a collage of short stories revolving around those who have been affected by the curse, this adaptation does the same but provides a bit more chronological and cinematic sense to it. In this movie, there seems to be a bit more of finality and closure compared to how strange some Japanese horror movies would usually end; with a hanging question and sometimes without even a heartbeat of a climax. This version offers a pinch more gore. But not to the point of overdoing it that it strays from the simplicity of the original concept. Like any good horror movie, it observes the rule of 'less is more', meaning, no flashy special effects (except for just one prominent CGI scene), no full-scale stunts, no elaborate chase scenes. The horror either seeps in like a tortuous consumption of fear eating up your spine, or a quick cut of fear that slams you in your face and leaves you pondering about the after-effects later on. The brilliance of THE GRUDGE may be credited to the fact that it blends well with the series. Not re-jumbling the original concept, it was as if there is this additional episode told from the point of view of its American protagonist, Karen Davis (Gellar).
The producers who were wise enough to responsibly create this adaptation are the team of Robert Tapert and director Sam Raimi. Before he was to become the famous director of "Spiderman", Sam Raimi who was the mastermind behind cult favorites as "Darkman" and "Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3)", written and directed "EVIL DEAD" which was produced by Robert Tapert. "EVIL DEAD" has become one of the scariest horror movies of all time (one of my personal favorite films, in fact). Unfortunately, it was a cult-status fame that didn't last through time. And as cult masterminds in horror cinema, the team was a very appropriate team to launch such a project. It was no wonder that THE GRUDGE held a consistent spot on the blockbuster charts for such a long time. Its fear does not wither away with the Halloween; it's fear that can render you frozen in the December breeze.
THE GRUDGE is a never-miss for horror fans. It is never disappointing for those who love that creep-trip. But just like the curse of the Grudge that follows you home, you may find yourself later that night at home, paranoid of what you'll see around. There may be a stranger in the mirror or a sound of a cat in the other room. Don't worry; it'll wait for you to be alone before it appears.