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The Grudge

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter

When a husband, in a jealous rage, murders his young wife and child, a curse is born, one that will doom all who enter his familial home to a gruesome death. This sums up the plot of The Grudge, the latest American remake of a popular Japanese fright flick to hit these shores since 2002ís The Ring.

The Ring, as you may recall, was a slight, guilty pleasure in which a cast of unfortunate characters were condemned to unspeakable fates simply because they had the misfortune to watch a grainy home video. The Grudge, director Takashi Shimizuís first English-language production, is a variation on the same theme: All those who view it are condemned to 96 minutes of violent vignettes that donít add up to a compelling story.

Was Ju-On: The Grudge, Shimizuís 2003 original, as utterly inane as its American counterpart? Will we, like the Japanese public, be subjected to a sequel? The guess here is yes, if only because The Grudge follows such a mind-numbingly simple formula. See, thereís this house. If you enter it, a creepy ghost will show up on your doorstep and kill you. He will announce his presence by croaking at great and laughable length. There is no escaping him, because, as the title suggests, he bears a mean grudge. Itís that simple.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, a beautiful and talented actress, plays Karen, an aspiring nurse stationed in Tokyo and assigned to the most ominous of work details. Sheís charged with caring for Emma (Grace Zabriskie, of Twin Peaks fame), who has the misfortune of living in The House That Death Built. Bill Pullman, a veteran of better movies like Malice and The Accidental Tourist, pays a visit. All will live to regret itÖ just not for very long.

There is an explanation for the curse, of course. According to Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi), the knowing detective who has long suspected the house to be cursed, there is a Japanese belief that malicious acts breed supernatural retribution. OK, fine. Thatís a rather pat justification for the redundant series of hauntings that comprise The Grudge, but itís fitting that such a pointless story should be rooted in murky, arbitrary philosophy. To call the film a waste of time would be an insult to wastes of time.

Stars: 1 out of 5 Stars