Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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A grudge against film goers

So I stopped writing reviews of old films I see from time to time because it was boring me and everyone else and served no real purpose. Occasionally, though, there comes a film that I really need to talk about.

The Grudge is such a film.

Because it sucks.

It sucks THAT much.

I didn't go into The Grudge expecting a masterpiece. I didn't even expect to like it. On the other hand it did make over $170 million at the box office, so while I didn't expect inspiration or artistry I did expect competence. There was none to be found. To explain just how bad this movie is would take someone with more eloquence and experience than I in the art of panning, but suffice it to say it sucked hairy goat balls. Very hairy goat balls.

While Sarah Michelle Gellar was marketed as the star of this unholy cinematic mess, she was in fact merely one member of an ensemble cast. I say ensemble because there were a bunch of cast members with roughly equal screen time, not because they worked well together or well-coordinated. In fact I can't remember a film I've seen with this little chemistry between not just ostensible on-screen lovers, but just about everyone. Sarah Michelle Gellar is so bland that to call her a cracker would be an insult to saltines, but she nearly sparkles with charisma when surrounded by this group of slugs. Very rarely do the actors seem to be in the same movie. It's like a bunch of people showed up for a film-shoot without being told other actors would be there, and did their best to pretend they were alone. Maybe they were all filmed separately and spliced together later, I don't know.

Then there's the plot. Or rather there isn't the plot. There isn't a plot. It's plotless. Twice during the filming, once during the opening credits, we are told that in Japan there's a legend that if someone dies in a state of extreme anger or sorrow their spirit lingers on, haunting the place where they died. Naturally the movie then focuses on a haunted house. What it does not do is explain any of the rules of the haunting, from whether there are limitations on the ghosts to what a person can do to break the spell (though it is implied that destroying the house might be a solution, there's no particular reason to think the ghosts wouldn't continue to haunt the patch of land it was located on.) In fact it's never quite explained how anyone earns the ire of these spirits. It appears that going into the house is enough, but several policemen and medical examiners do so with no ill effects, and one woman is killed all the way across town for no apparent reason.

That's another thing. In most haunted house ghost stories the ghost hauntings are limited to the house itself. Leave the house, get safe from the ghost. That's why so many of them take place in spooky mansions with lots of halls to run down and gates to slam shut, trapping people inside. If they took place in an apartment the people would rush for the door and either die or make it out in about 20 seconds. Not much of a story. This movie takes place in a Japanese house with like five rooms, and people do regularly make it out the door when they realize what's going on. The thing is, that's not enough. The ghosts can appear anywhere in Tokyo, or maybe the world, and can do virtually anything.

Of course horror fans don't really care about plot, they want to know one thing. Is it scary. The answer for The Grudge is yes and no. It has its share of chills and scary moments, but they're all cheap and unearned. It's not that hard to scare viewers if you stick the camera in the face of a victim and have them walk alone through darkened halls towards their doom. It's even easier if you get gruesome creatures to leap out of shadows at them making strange noises, or appearing in random reflections without rhyme or reason. It isn't, however, a fear that sticks with you. It's not like in Night of the Living Dead, where the horror has resonance in the real world and follows you out of the theater. Watching scenes of rooftop survival in New Orleans recently has reminded me of "Dawn of the Dead," where the same sorts of tactics and hope are employed against a sea of zombies rather than floodwater. The Grudge has no such resonance. It's just a bunch of people being tormented to death for no apparent reason. Even the motivations of the ghosts make no sense. They were victims of a nasty crime, and so they go around murdering random other people because...?

I know I shouldn't judge "The Grudge" for what it doesn't do. It's just escapist entertainment. But it's bad escapist entertainment, terrible really, and the fact that it made so much money is just mind-boggling. It has literally nothing going for it. It's just a low-budget Ring ripoff, (Down to the dead girl with the long black hair) and it deserved to die at the box office much more than its characters did. When it makes $170 million and a movie like Land of the Dead, which at least attempts social relevance and plot coherence, makes less than 30...

I don't understand why people like movies this bad. It's not a matter of taste or personal aesthetics, The Grudge is as close to objectively terrible as a film can get. It has no reason to exist except to make money, but I don't know how it did that either. Sarah Michelle Gellar can't have 17 million fans. Can she?
Tags: absolute crap, crap, crap with a side order of crap, crappity crappy crapenstein, crappy crap crap, evil, movie reviews, shit, terrible, the downfall of western civilization, the worst things in the world
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