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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Grudge



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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted May 07 2009 - 04:02 PM

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The Grudge

Release Date: May 12, 2009
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13 (theatrical version) / Unrated (extended version)
Running Time: 1h31m (theatrical version) / 1h38m (extended version)
MSRP: $28.95

 MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURES
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1Standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1, French 5.1Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish, English SDH, FrenchEnglish


The Feature: 4/5
Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American nursing student studying abroad in Tokyo, encounters a disturbing, supernatural presence while on a home care visit. The horrific manifestation seems to be the cause behind the murder-suicide of the patient's son and daughter-in-law, the disappearance of the previous home care worker, and ultimately the death of the patient. As Karen looks into the history of the home, she learns about a Japanese belief about "sorrowful death" and the stain that it leaves on the location in which it occurs. And what previously happened in the house certainly qualifies. Though the cause of the haunting is clear, it seems there's no way to put it to rest. Everyone who crosses its path may have no choice but to succumb to its power.

It's not that I don't recognize the too-familiar, manipulative qualities of "The Grudge" - the leaping cat, the overcranked sound effects, the jump cuts that amount to a cinematic "BOO!" I recognize all those things and watch with a distanced eye to make a technical evaluation, and the film still gives me gooseflesh! But of course "your mileage may vary." For me the film is almost too effective, reaching a part of my brain that is obviously not home to reason. If it were I would probably take issue with a few points in the movie where it seems to deviate from its own paradigm. But as it is I'm just hoping I can fall asleep tonight.

The release includes the extended version that includes about seven minutes of additional, more graphic material.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Black levels are limited, making for a frequently flat looking image. This also affects the quality of color, which tends to be pretty drab. Fine object detail is good, however, particularly with skin and fabric textures, and overall sharpness is decent, with occasional moments of softness that seem inherent to the source (e.g. green screen composites can be pretty obvious). Grain appears nicely preserved, along with the occasional dirt speck and white sparkle, with no obvious signs of noise reduction. Likewise the image is free of edge enhancement or signs of excessive sharpening.


Audio Quality: 4/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio track offers an effectively chilling mix to complement the disturbing visuals. LFE can be quite strong, particularly in the finale when the "grudge" is in full effect. Surround channels can be similarly aggressive with panning and wraparound effects, but also quite subtle when needed, creating a decent sense of atmosphere. Overall the track has very good dynamic range with consistently clear and intelligible dialogue.


Special Features: 4/5
The special features package is well-rounded with a solid documentary, supplemental videos that look at storyboards and production design, and items that will appeal to fans of the actors. The commentary tracks are decent, but some of the material is also covered by the other, more succinct pieces.

Theatrical cut commentary with writer Stephen Susco, producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, and actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, Clea Duvall, KaDee Strickland and Ted Raimi: The eight-person track is prone to jovial asides and periods of silence, but mingled in between are some interesting anecdotes from filming and working in another culture. Those who don't have the patience for the "hang out" style of commentary will likely give it a pass.

Extended cut commentary with director Takashi Shimizu, producer Taka Ichise, and actress Takako Fuji (Japanese commentary with English subtitles): The trio make frequent comparisons to the original Japanese film, "Ju-On", making the commentary track better suited for those who have seen both versions. However the track is generally more focused than the other, making for a more informative experience.

Deleted scenes (with optional commentary in Japanese with English subtitles) (33m35s): Fifteen scenes offering more extensive character interaction. The Japanese trio return to provide the optional commentary.

"A Powerful Rage: Behind the Grudge" (48m06s): The documentary covers the film's adaptation, background mythology, cross cultural experiences, set design, and working with director Shimizu, with interviews from Sam Raimi, Shimizu, Gellar and other members of the cast and crew. Divided into six chapters with a "Play All" option.

"Under the Skin" (12m26s): Neuroscientist and author Dr. Joseph LeDoux talks about the human fear response and the appeal of horror films.

"The 'Grudge' House: An Insider's Tour" (3m58s): A walkthrough the set, edited together with relevant scenes from the movie.

"Sights and Sounds: The Storyboard Art of Takashi Shimizu" (3m13s): Storyboards of the climactic scene, set to the audio from the film.

"Production Designer's Notebook: The Sketches of Iwao Saito" (2m26s): Includes sketches of the haunted house exterior and interior locations.

Video Diaries by Sarah Michelle Gellar and KaDee Strickland: Gellar's piece (running 9m02s) includes her wandering the set chatting with the crew and a look behind the scenes as she films on the subway. Strickland's piece (running 13m31s) takes viewers on a fairly extensive tour of Tokyo.

Ju-On Short Films: In "4444444444" (2m58s) a bicyclist finds a cell phone and makes an unexpected connection. In "In A Corner" (3m22s) a student loses her friend to a malevolent force.

Previews: For "Resident Evil: Degeneration" and "Zombie Strippers".


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

An effectively creepy horror film gets a good technical presentation and a thorough set of special features.
One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 3 LarryH

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Posted May 08 2009 - 01:46 PM

Even though I found this film not particularly original and a bit cliched, it was one of the few films that actually made my skin crawl more than once.

#3 of 3 George_W_K

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Posted May 10 2009 - 03:43 AM

I second what Larry said. I don't usually like movies like this, but this will be added to my collection.