340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Grievance, resentment; a deep-seated ill will

Sometimes creating an Americanized version of a Japanese film works: witness the scene-for-scene re-creation of Kurosawa's classic Shichinin no Samurai as The Magnificent Seven.

Sometimes it doesn't: Gojira is an exponentially better film than any of its American imitators.

And sometimes it kinda, sorta works.

The Grudge is unusual in that it's directed by the same person who helmed the original, 2003's Ju-On. It's also set in Japan--though it features predominantly American actors--so the same mythology and narrative devices can be employed: there's no clumsy groping for Western "equivalents." It's also extremely faithful to the spirit (no pun intended) of the original, with its focus on a certain kind of animism integral to Japanese culture. This investment of a vaguely empathic anthropomorphic life to things and spaces is twisted in the film to create a keen sense of paranoid claustrophobia.

Unfortunately it falls on the shoulders of Sarah Gellar to serve as our guide through this foreign landscape and she just doesn't have what it takes to carry this movie. Not having a whole lot of acting skill to fall back on, she opts for the same approach Anna Paquin took in Darkness: the "breathless doe" bit. Her co-star (for lack of a better word) Jason Behr fares just as badly as a generic American ex-pat, phoning in a flat performance: these two have all the chemistry of a couple of lawn chairs. Bill Pullman got my attention in his brief opening scene, but then again I've always liked his unique combination of the pleasantly hapless with the vaguely sinister.

Like I said earlier, I'm a sucker for scary movies, which is to say they scare me--a lot. Unfortunately, this means that I can't really comment on some of The Grudge's most suspenseful moments because I wasn't watching: I was admiring the inside of my hand.

What I can say is that the music and sound editing were excellent. Watching half the movie play itself out via a shallow, distorted reflection in the coffee table allowed me to appreciate the subtle, layered sounds and sparse soundtrack that characterize any good horror movie.

Almost makes me wish I'd kept my eyes open during the really scary bits.


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