The Grudge is the 2004 American remake of the Japanese film Ju-on: The Grudge and the first installment in the American horror film series The Grudge. The film was released in North America on October 22, 2004 by Columbia Pictures, directed by Takashi Shimizu (director of the original series) and written by Stephen Susco. In the same tradition as the original Ju-on series, the plot of the film is told through a non-linear sequence of events and includes several intersecting subplots. The Grudge tells the story of an American social worker crossing paths with a mysterious curse lying in a house she is hired to work for.
The Grudge describes a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. The curse gathers in the place where that person died. Those who encounter this murderous supernatural force die and the curse is reborn, passed from victim to victim in an endless, growing chain of horror. The following events are explained in their actual order (which differs from the order shown on film).
The film opens on a man, Peter Kirk - An American College Professor in Japan's capital, Tokyo. One morning, he is standing on his high rise balcony, with a troubled look on his face. His wife, Maria, looks at him from inside their apartment and asks him what's wrong. Without any word or hesitation, he flings himself over the balcony, committing suicide, as a shocked Maria looks on.
The Williams family
Matthew Williams, his wife Jennifer, and his ailing mother Emma, move into the Seaki house. Jennifer is unhappy with her life in Japan: she is unable to speak the language, and has gotten lost once on a walk. Matthew assures her things will improve and that if they don't, the family will return to the United States.
Jennifer falls asleep on a couch in the living room. The sound of her bowl hitting the floor awakens her and she discovers the bowl on the floor, the contents strewn everywhere. She scolds Emma for making the mess, but sees a trail of wet child's footprints leading out to the hall. She sees a cat on the landing of the stairs and sees a pair of white arms gently pick it up. She continues upstairs and enters her bedroom (Toshio's former bedroom). The door closes behind her.
Matthew returns from work and finds the house in complete disarray with trash strew everywhere. He calls out to his wife who doesn't answer. He finally finds her on the bed, unable to move or speak and struggling to breath. Before he can call an ambulance he is startled by the sudden appearance of a young boy making a cat sound named Toshio. He backs up against the closet as Toshio appears suddenly over his head.
Later, Susan, Matthew's sister, is preparing to leave the office. After attempting to call, Susan increasingly becomes concerned from not being able to reach Matthew. She starts to leave her office building but she is stopped by the sound of moaning coming from the hallway. She quickly exits to the stairs but is frightened when the lights start to flicker and shatter. Susan looks over the railing to see Kayako's ghost crawling up the stairs. Susan flees to the closest hallway but Kayako grabs her cell phone charm and pulls it off. Susan goes to the security office, seeking help. There the security guard promises to check it out. Susan watches the monitor as the security guard investigates. However, he finds nothing and leaves. Then the lights flicker and Kayako's ghost rises up out of the shadows in the hallway and walks toward the security camera. Susan runs.
Susan takes a taxi cab back to her apartment. She enters an elevator, and it ascends several floors. Susan does not notice, however, that Toshio is standing outside each set of elevator doors she passes, getting progressively closer with each passing floor. Susan makes it safely inside when her phone rings. It is Matthew claiming to have forgotten her apartment number and asking to be buzzed inside. She tells him where to find her and activates the buzzer with the phone. The doorbell rings immediately after she hangs up. Thinking Matthew could not possibly have had time to arrive, she checks the peephole of the door. Shocked to find it is Matthew, Susan believes he is pranking her. She angrily throws open the door, but no one is there. The death rattle emanates loudly through the phone in Susan's hand. She drops and breaks the phone, yet the rattle can still be heard. Cowering in the bed, Susan reaches beneath the covers and pulls out the rabbit's foot phone charm from her phone and drops it in fear. A lump billows from underneath the covers and moves toward Susan. She lifts the sheets, seeing Kayako's face. She is abruptly pulled under and both disappear.
The Social Workers
Yoko is a girl whose work is to take care of Emma and clean the house. While picking up trash on the floor and stairs, she hears someone walking around up in the attic. Following the noise, Yoko enters a closet in the bedroom and sees a small door in the ceiling, which leads to the attic. Using a lighter, Yoko sticks her head up through the door and slowly turns around, looking for the source of the sound. She eventually comes face to face with Kayako, who attacks her and pulls her up into the attic.
Karen Davis is then called in to work at the house (in Setagaya) and care for Emma after Yoko disappears. While working, Karen finds a closet that has been taped shut with cat-like noises coming from it. When she rips off the tape and opens the door, she finds a little boy. The boy refuses to come downstairs so she asks him for his name. "Toshio", he says, in a monotone, eerie voice. Emma begins stirring and muttering in the other room. As Karen calms her, a dark shadow of hair emerges from a corner of the room, terrifying Emma. Karen looks up to see Kayako reaching for Emma. Kayako's hair, which was covering her face, flies back to reveal the whites of her eyes. The irises roll into place and focus on Karen as she backs away in fright.
Alex, Karen's boss, finally arrives to find Emma unconscious and Karen in a state of shock. Karen is taken to the hospital while detectives question Alex. Detective Nakagawa asks Alex about the people that lived there, and tell him that Yoko has been missing from work. The detectives notice that the phone handset is missing from the cradle and push the page button. They trace the sounds to the attic where they discover the corpses of Matthew and his wife. They also make a grisly discover of a human jaw and wonder to whom it belongs and where the rest of the body might be. Later, Yoko is spotted again by Alex as she is shuffling down the stairs of the caretaking facility where Alex, Karen, and Yoko work. As he is walking towards her, he accidentally slips on a liquid, which he discovers is blood when he touches it. Alex calls to Yoko, who does not answer in any way until he reaches the bottom of the stairs. She then turns around to reveal her face. As Alex screams in horror and dies, her face is shown to now be horribly disfigured, missing her lower jaw and with her tongue hanging out, while the screen fades to black.
Karen tells her story to detectives, emphasizing the appearance of a boy. Over the next few days, she is constantly tormented by Kayako. Frightened but determined, she starts researching the history of the house on the Internet. Eventually, she learns of the murders from the website of a Japanese newspaper. On the same page, she also comes across the news of the death of the American professor, Dr. Peter Kirk. She now decides to learn the entire history from Dr. Kirk's widow, Maria Kirk.
Detective Nakagawa becomes convinced that the rash of deaths and missing people is connected to the house when he views the entire security video taken at Susan's office building. He watches as Kayako proceeds down the hall, then comes face to face with the camera as the video fuzzes out. He then returns to the Saeki house with two cans of gasoline. He is distracted by the sound of Toshio drowning in the bath tub. He enters and finds a boy hanging out of the tub, and tries to revive him. His eyes snap open, and Takeo appears behind him. Nakagawa only has time to turn around before Takeo shoves him into the bathtub and drowns him like Toshio.
Karen questions Maria Kirk, Peter's widow, who does not appear to know anything about the house, its occupants, or why her husband committed suicide. She allows Karen to search through old photos. Karen discovers a living Kayako in the background of every photograph, clearly following the couple. Karen then attempts to go talk with her boyfriend, Doug, at their apartment. However, she discovers he has gone looking for her at the house after seeing her research. Karen then returns to the house in search of Doug.
Inside the house, Karen experiences a flashback of Peter's visit. It is revealed that Kayako had fallen in love with him. Kayako's husband, Takeo, discovered her obsession and in a fit of rage, murdered her and their son, Toshio. This is the strain, the 'grudge' of the house. Karen's flashback shows Peter discovering their bodies at the house. Overwhelmed by the brutality of Takeo's murder of Kayako, Karen staggers downstairs and the house returns to the present time. Doug grabs her ankle before she leaves. He is incapacitated, and she tries to drag him to the door. A door opens upstairs. Kayako crawls down the stairs toward them, and gives Doug the kiss of death. Karen opens the door, but Kayako's ghost is suddenly there. She slams the door and kicks over one of the gas cans. She takes Doug's lighter and tosses it onto the gas as Doug suddenly becomes Kayako. The screen goes white. (In the director's cut, there are shots of Karen being put into an ambulance van).
At the hospital, Karen learns that the house was saved from burning and mourns Doug's dead body. Suddenly, Kayako's hair and arm comes beneath the sheet that covers him, but Karen realizes that it's just her imagination (when the hand turns normal). Kayako then appears behind Karen. As Kayako utters her death-rattle, the movie ends with an eyeshot of her.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Karen Davis
- Jason Behr as Doug
- William Mapother as Matthew Williams
- Clea DuVall as Jennifer Williams
- KaDee Strickland as Susan Williams
- Grace Zabriskie as Emma Williams
- Bill Pullman as Peter Kirk
- Rosa Blasi as Maria Kirk
- Ted Raimi as Alex
- Ryo Ishibashi as Det. Nakagawa
- Hiroshi Matsunaga as Igarashi
- Yoko Maki as Yoko
- Hajime Okayama as Suzuki
- Takako Fuji as Kayako Saeki
- Yuya Ozeki as Toshio Saeki
- Takashi Matsuyama as Takeo Saeki
The film opened in 3,348 theaters in North America. The film generated $39.1 million in ticket sales in its first weekend (October 22–24, 2004). The film later declined 43% on its second weekend by earning $21.8 million, becoming the first horror film to top the Halloween box office since House on Haunted Hill. The film made US$ 110,359,362 in North America alone and a total of $187,281,115 worldwide, far exceeding the expectations of box office analysts and Sony Pictures executives. Sony also stated the film cost less than $10 million to produce, thereby making it one of the most profitable films of the year. The film received mixed reviews, earning a "Rotten" rating of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes (with 59 out of 151 film reviews counted fresh). Classic FM's film critic Simon Bates deemed it the scariest film he had ever seen. The Grudge held the record of the highest grossing for a supernatural movie, which was broken by Paranormal Activity 2 in 2010.
Notes and trivia
- Selma Blair was first considered for the role of Karen.
- Fungo Dining, the restaurant Doug works at, is a real Tokyo restaurant.
- While filming the infamous shower scene, Sarah Michelle Gellar discovered she was allergic to Japanese water, as it caused her skin to itch. "Japanese men and it was very sexy because I had an allergic reaction to the water and so they dressed me in garbage bags from the waist down. [I was in] a little tube top and black hefty garbage bags."
- Karen and Doug, on their way to the Japanese graveyard, pass by three schoolgirls in the street. This is a reference to Izumi and her friends Chiharu and Miyuki from Ju-on: The Grudge.
- Yuya Ozeki's third and last time portraying Toshio. In real life, he is terrified of cats.
- According to the DVD commentary by the cast and crew, the first of appearance of the cat right when Karen picks up Kayako's journal was not in fact the real cat, but a fake cat held by a crew member, raising it in front of the camera.
- On the DVD commentary Sarah Michelle Gellar remembers that Jason Behr had previously guest-starred on her show Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not Clea Duvall who also appeared in the episode "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" as a girl who turns invisible. This is because Gellar never had any scenes with Duvall's character whilst she was visible so the actresses never actually met. Gellar arrived in Tokyo at the same time Buffy premiered on Japan.
- The Saeki house was built completely on a sound stage. It was based almost entirely on the original Ju-on home. It was built like a normal house, the 'house set' had two floors so that cuts did not have to be made when a character was walking upstairs. However, the attic was built separately from the house to allow for more room when filming.
- The closet room where Takeo hides Kayako's corpse is changed from the hall's front room (above the lobby) to the hall's end. The front room becomes Toshio's bedroom where Takeo hangs himself. A window to the lobby is also absent.
- A significant change is made in relation to the Saeki murders. In The Grudge, Takeo actually kills both his wife, his son and the boy's cat in a flashback scene prominent throughout the trilogy. In the Ju-on films however, Shimizu-san makes it more subtle and the murders are never actually seen.
- Takeo murders Kayako by breaking her neck, which causes her trademark death rattle. In the original series, however, he stabbed her to death mostly on the throat, with this being what causes her ghost to rattle.
- Takeo did not murder Toshio in Ju-on. He presumably wanted him to stay alive and Kobayashi to take care of him. It is implied that Toshio was taken by Kayako herself, which is what happens in the Ju-on novel, after he hid in the attic and was sealed there by Takeo.
- A deleted scene shows Matthew being possessed by Takeo and recreating his acts, taking Jennifer's body to the attic and kicking Susan off his house. Shimizu-san cut the scene feeling that it took the focus off Kayako.
- Another deleted scene features Karen having a last vision from the Saeki family alive and joyful (which suggests Karen did actually end the curse). Toshio turns to her before his smiling mother calls him in.
- An alternative scene features Yoko being haunted by a dark crawling shadow that becomes Mar. The cat forces a scared Yoko to enter the closet, from where she climbs to the attic and meets the ghost of Kayako.
- Entitled The Juon in Japan.
- The Unrated Extended Director's Cut version of the film was used as the theatrical run in Japan.
The sequel, The Grudge 2, was announced three days after the film opened, and was released in 2006. The sequel stars Amber Tamblyn as Karen's younger sister Aubrey who is sent to Japan by her mother to bring Karen home. The Grudge 3 was announced by Sony at Comic-Con 2008. Takashi Shimizu had stated in 2006 he was initially offered to direct the third installment but preferred to work only as a producer. On October 23, 2007, it was confirmed that the film would instead be directed by Toby Wilkins, who directed the short films Tales from the Grudge as a promotional material for The Grudge 2 in 2006. Takashi Shimizu and Taka Ichise produced the third film, written by Brad Keene.
The film was released on DVD and UMD on February 1, 2005. A standard version of the contains a few special features. On May 17, 2005, the MPAA-unrated director's cut of The Grudge was released onto DVD in North America. The release included several scenes that were cut to achieve a lower rating from the MPAA, as well as others which were removed for pacing and plot reasons. The release also contained new deleted scenes and commentaries and the Katasumi and 4444444444 short films, in which Kayako and Toshio's ghosts are introduced. It was made available to purchase on iTunes in 2008. The Grudge was released on Blu-ray Disc in Germany in 2008. It was released on Blu-TRay disc in the U.S. on May 12, 2009, the same day as The Grudge 3 DVD.