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Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sarah Michelle Gellar - ’The Grudge’ DVD - Metronews.ca Review

Tuesday 15 February 2005, by Webmaster

Grudge, Saw represent diverging paths

The Grudge

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

*** 1/2 (out of five)


Lion’s Gate DVD

** 1/2

These two horror films couldn’t be more different, but they neatly represent the two diverging paths horror has taken in the years since the Scream franchise almost buried horror under an avalanche of irony.

The Grudge is a remake of Ju-On, a hit Japanese horror film, with the same director at the helm for both versions. Japanese horror comes from a different place than the zombie flicks and haunted houses that dominate the genre in the West, as ancestor worship inevitably led to a fear of unquiet spirits - vengeful ghosts more occupied with tainting than haunting, as they labour at perpetuating the horror that took their own lives.

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a U.S. student in Tokyo who, by merely crossing the threshold of a house where some gruesome murders took place, joins the hit list of a pair of angry spirits. What’s unique about Japanese horror is the focus on blamelessness - the victims have done nothing to morally deserve their fate, and the ghosts who pursue them have an impersonal relentlessness.

The terror in films like Ju-On come from the implacability of the spirits - they can show up anywhere, take any form, and seem to delight in their ingenuity. This almost plotless haunting has obviously struck a chord with horror fans, who’ve embraced dread-filled, drifting films like Ju-On and Ringu and their Hollywood remakes, apparently desperate for relief from horror flicks with mechanistic, schematic plots that echo the videogames that often inspired them.

Saw, on the other hand, embraces machinelike relentlessness, with a story about two men trapped in a room by an apparently omniscient and ingenious psychopath. Cary Elwes is a surgeon and Leigh Whannell is a cynical slacker, chosen by their tormentor to play a game that’s meant to teach them a lesson, if it doesn’t kill them.

We have Silence Of The Lambs and especially Se7en to thank for films like Saw - nasty little chamber pieces with pretentious overtones. It’s one thing to rely on avid morbidity when showing an audience gruesome murder and mutilation, it’s something else - something faintly brilliant and sinister - to rely on the prurient shame that comes with that morbidity to piggyback a pointed misanthropy in on top of all the gore.