Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

The Grudge (2004): An Amazing Horror Film that Captures an Unstoppable Hate

The Grudge

    After I had watched “The Ring” with my friends and partner the next film we watched was “The Grudge.” Like what it shows on the DVD, it is scarier than “The Ring” in my opinion. This is a film that shows why people are afraid of the idea of ghosts. What can you do against a thing that cannot be killed by any known means that is driven only by a single emotion? The design for the Grudge is really great too and I think the fact that they brought the director Takashi Shimizu who is responsible for the original series “Jo-Un” in Japan is part of why it is so great. This was a film that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

     Takashi Shimizu directed the film with Stephen Susco writing the script, while Sam Raimi was the one who produced this remake.

SPOILERS ahead

    The story begins with a suicide of Peter (Bill Pullman) who kills himself as before we learn that in any location where something horrible happens a curse is born out of sorrow or rage that kills those who enters this location and hunts them after they leave it. The story follows a few characters who come in contact with it from a foreign exchange student named Karen (Sarah Michelle Geller) to Detective Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) and a few others who made the house their home.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is fantastic and does a wonderful job at capturing the monster around the corner. The fact that Shimizu has done this before helps as he truly shows himself to be a master his craft.

The Soundtrack – Christopher Young creates an intense soundtrack that keeps up the fatalistic outlook the film brings as we see each character eventually be taken out by the evil Grudge.

The Story Structure – The structure begins with the mystery of the house and Peter’s suicide as over the course of the film we learn the story behind the ghosts (a woman and child) who continue to kill those who enter the house and hunt the people who had entered the house for any reason.

The Characters – The characters overall aren’t as developed as those in “The Ring” but the family dynamics in each are interesting and those are what I’ll be exploring here. Sarah Michelle Geller is one of the weaker characters in the film as the older actors are the ones who really shine in this.

Detective Nakagawa – Ryo Ishibashi is great as the detective who has been avoiding the horror of the house for a long time as he is one of the few who knows about the Saekis and the fact that the father killed the mother and son before killing himself but he knows that everyone who has investigated it has ended up dead. When the Grudge starts hunting him after he had entered the house he gets gasoline and is prepared to burn it down, until he’s stupid and enters one of the rooms where he hears a boy choking who is the spirit once again hunting and he ends up dead.

The Kirks and Williams – This is a family whose mother is being cared for in the house and haunted by Mrs. Saeki and her son. They don’t believe what is going on and each are hunted down by Mrs. Saeki until they are all dead. There aren’t any standout performances as they aren’t really given enough time until the Grudge is active in their lives. So the most interesting part is just the relationship dynamic between them as the son is all about business, the daughter-in-law doesn’t want ot be there and the daughter of the mother is successful and distant.

Peter – Peter is the professor who Mrs. Saeki was stalking. It was he who discovers the murder suicide and Mrs. Saeki’s awakening into The Grudge as he retreats and later kills himself from the horror as she stalks him in death as she did in life.

The Saekis – The Saeki’s are messed up as the father is unstable (he kills the cat, his son and wife after learning she loves Peter) and it is this messed up darkness that creates the Grudge in the first place as the kid and Mrs. Saeki are it’s main forms it uses to hunt all who enter it’s territory.

The Grudge – The grudge is an evil spirit that uses those it kills as a mask to hunt down those who enter it’s home. It’s creepy as it can jump around and see through windows and television screens and isn’t bound by time (it shows Karen the events of it’s creation) and is unstoppable. Fire probably kills it but we never learn if that’s the case since the fire is put out when Karen tries to finish what the Detective started.

Okay: Karen – Karen is an interesting idea but is the weakest in this film. She does way too many stupid things and kept putting people at risk. The one good thing she does is pull the professor to action but than she can’t even burn the house down when she knows her boyfriend is probably already taken by the Grudge. She had one job. In the end the Grudge gets her, to no ones surprise.

   “The Ring” in my opinion has the stronger story, though this film is much scarier and I really enjoyed the story structure. The biggest problem is the ensemble cast and writing doesn’t always hold up. A lot of characters including Karen and her boyfriend do stupid things for no reason and the Detective should have burned the house and left and not stuck around given he knew the house was haunted and had lost a bunch of detectives already. These were the biggest issues that brought it down and kept it from being the same quality as “The Ring,” though it is still a horror film that is a favorite and one I’d highly recommend. I look forward to reviewing the original “Jo-Un” as well.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

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Darkman (1990): A Masterpiece Exploring the Transformative Nature of Revenge

Darkman

    “Darkman” is a fantastic film and really gave me a huge appreciation for Sam Raimi’s work outside of the first two “Spider-man” films. This is a film that has depth to it’s characters, fascinating villains and a protagonist who is one of the more original to be created in fiction. Darkman is a character who changes over the course of the film and his creation is tragic, which lends strength to the story’s narrative and kept me watching.

     Sam Raimi directed the film and wrote it along with Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin and Joshua Goldin. It was produced by Robert Tapert.

    The story involves Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) who is scarred when Durant (Larry Drake) the mobster attacks his lab to steal a document his girlfriend Julie (Francis McDarmond) was planning to use to explore city corruption. He survives the experience and goes underground becoming Darkman and seeking revenge against the mobsters who killed his assistant and scarred him.

The Pros: The World – The world reminds me of Gotham with there always be darkness and smoke over everything and the mob being in bed with big business as they pretty much do a takeover of the city. It makes sense why Darkman isn’t an idealistic hero, this city has no room for idealism.

The Transformation – The transformation is dark and powerful as Peyton is dropped into a vat, has his arms burned and loses his ability to touch. This leads to him getting super strength and also making him mad.

The Cinematography – Bill Pope did an amazing job on the cinematography. The scenes are clear and there is great use of shadows and light to give the tone of the world and our characters. This is a dying city.

The Soundtrack – Danny Elfman did a fantastic job on this soundtrack! His haunting score captures the horror of what Peyton Westlake goes through and captures how his desire for hate and revenge transforms him.

The Characters – The characters are all solid and have reason behind what they do, even the villains who would be lesser under different direction and actors.

Louis Strack Jr. – Is the corrupt billionare who wants to rebuild the city with the stolen money from the mob. He’s ambitious and was a man who came from nothing. He is also smart too and figures out when Darkman has taken the identity of Durant to get close to him and to rescue his girlfriend. He is tough to beat and his words about Westlake losing himself are proven correct. Colin Friels did a good job.

Robert Durant – Durant is the mobster who has a pretty great team. He works for Strack and is the man who nearly kills Darkman on multiple occasions, once when he is still Westlake and he kills Westlake’s assistant, the second when he targets Darkman’s hideout. Larry Drake was great.

Durant’s Minions – The minions are a lot of fun. One of them is a curly haired nerd, another has an artificial leg that works as a machine gun (and is used to kill a rival gang at the beginning) there is the muscle who looks like the Kingpin and the brains who survives until the end.

Julie Hastings – Frances McDormand is awesome! I really liked her in this where we see her see past Westlake’s appearance even when he can’t…and the fact that she was the one trying to reveal the corruption in the city. She’s a great character and I wanted to see more of her in action.

Peyton Westlake/Darkman – Liam Neeson is a wonderful hero. As Westlake he plays an eccentric mad scientist who is a strong empath and who loses all of that when he is burned making him a man who lives only for revenge. He is lost in it even as he is able to get his face back due to him being a scientist creating artificial skin…in the end that can’t change how his actions of revenge against Durant and Strack have changed him. In the end he becomes Bruce Campbell and disappears into the crowd knowing he can only be the avenger as his humanity is lost.

How Revenge Transforms – In the beginning Westlake is holding onto who he once was, but when he goes to Hastings in the pouring rain she runs away and fear and he sees his appearance and blames that and not the fact that he couldn’t speak, from here he seeks revenge and we see how the manipulation and his anger come to consume him to the point that he reacts at a a Carnival and attacks a man, which later leads to him going underground as he fears what his anger will make him do to good people like Julie.

   There really isn’t much that can be said that this film does wrong. It has a unique feel and flavor to it, our characters change over time and have to make choices that advance the plot, and in the end it sticks to the tragic tone as Westlake is forever alone when he realizes the person he has become is a danger to everyone. The only reason I didn’t give it 10 is I wish Strack had been less slimey and that we’d gotten more time with Julie doing her job before the transformation. Regardless, I highly recommend it and find it to be one of the best superhero films I have ever watched. I am going to be checking out more of Raimi’s work later. I really like his style.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10