The Grudge (2004) – Thoughts From Thatbigscreenguy

Wierd moaning. That’s what I remember the most while being freaked out at the sight of Kayako’s suspenseful yet frightening crawls. “The Grudge” for me personally has always had that eerily feeling that not many horror films have on me nowadays. Usually it’s built up on suspense or the unknown or basically something inevitable to avoid, yet you try your hardest only to end up failing.

*SPOILERS*

Synopsis?

The sight of jealousy causes a misfortune for the Saeki family, where the man of the house goes 187 on his wife, Kayako, because fell in love with her college professor (let that be a warning lesson to me). Through the circumstances of this tragedy however, a curse to be born and thus all who come into contact with it, die horrific yet unexplainable deaths. In comes Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar). With her boyfriend Doug, she must now confront the supernatural forces that begin to haunt her and find a way to survive the curse before it’s too late.

What did I think?

Well if you asked me this question a few years ago I would’ve said that it was absolutely the scariest thing I ever saw. Nowadays I just look at it as having too many faults that I noticed even in my childhood. The first thing I would point out is the structure of the film itself. Remember I mentioned Karen? Well she and Doug aren’t the only ones that deal with the the curse in this film. Others encounter it as well in their own respective stories. Some of these subplots even intermingle, closing any loopholes that might be asked about the film. I understand that there is style to the narrative structure of “The Grudge” which is nonlinear in an out-of-sequence order, but that also kind of works against it in a sense. As a kid, obviously this was nothing more than getting the feces scared out of me for kicks, but I always remember asking myself where in the world did some of these characters come from, if they were supposedly already dead 5 minutes ago.

Another issue I really had with the “The Grudge” was its ending. Let me just be clear that I absolutely hate cliffhangers. I really can’t stand them. They leave something open for the audience to interpret and ask themselves what would’ve happened. To me, a cliffhanger is only suitable for an ending when it’s done right.

If you’re going to have Sarah Michelle Gellar turn around to the sight of Kayako’s creepy eye and the sounds of her terrifying moaning and just have everything cut to black with credits, well that’s just more stressful than appalling. My personal opinion is that to have someone “emotionally invested” is to at least include some kind of closure, not just leave something open in the middle of a sequence that must surely have some kind of immediate result. Obviously the aftermath would be explored in “The Grudge 2” but as far as the first installment goes as a stand-alone product, this was a cheap way to end the film.

Favorite Scene (If Any)?

The one moment that I’ve always remembered about “The Grudge” is the scene with Alex and the “possessed” Yoko. Of course Alex would be the simple-minded twit who decides the follow the creepy girl down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night.

Final Thoughts?

Despite these flaws, I overall appreciated the film and thus will say that I liked it. I  think the original Japanese version is completely superior since it’s all competent about originality. This is just a remake that I’m talking about. If you guys have never seen “Ju-on: The Grudge,” I would recommend seeing that prior to giving this film a go. That’s just my personal take on it.

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“Raccoons” Everywhere In the Underground

Resident Evil (2002)

Let me think about it. I was 7 years old when this came out. As a straightforward horror film, I always enjoyed this kind of entertainment but lately it’s kind of grown out on me. You look at 2002’s “Resident Evil” and you think what an amazing job it must have been to base the movie on elements of the video game series. I’ve played the games too when I was little and was creeped out enough to say the least.

*SPOILERS*

My title by the way, refers to the city itself which isn’t necessarily featured prominently until later in the film series. I loved the concept of being trapped underground in a top secret laboratory with a bunch of flesh-eating zombies. Throw in an array of advanced technology as a defense mechanism and you’ve got a terrifying isolated place as your main setting. Characterization is pretty limited which is something I didn’t always like that this film excluded. Everyone is just thrown into this horrific setting with barely any noted background or story.

There were some other things that I never truly enjoyed about this film. The first would have to be the acting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mila Jovovich as well as Michelle Rodriguez. It’s just that the amnesia-clueless Alice never really got me over, but I suppose it was meant to serve as an excuse so that the other characters could explain to all of us, the audience, what the situation is in the film. Jovovich did a solid job in that sense, but I just never looked at it in an Oscar-winning performance kind of way.

That brings me to my next point. With zombies thrown into the mix, it’s obvious that these characters needed to have some fighting skills to defend themselves and in that theory I was correct. “Resident Evil” throws in a solid punch with non-stop martial arts and butt-kicking, mostly delivered from our lovely blond, Alice. That was a bit of a distraction when it came to following the story. A virus is let loose in the Hive and thus the Red Queen goes 187 on everyone’s ass, even once our commando team of characters decide to investigate the dilemma.

From there we even get a science fiction aspect. Lasers and lickers all around are enough to make much of a challenge for our team, which by the way begins to die off one by one as the film progresses. Well we really only get to see one licker and the effects kind of looked below average but I’m not going to bash against the production team for this. They did a better job with the lickers in “Apocalypse,” but that’s another story… I have to say though, I always loved Michelle Rodriguez in any role that she is in and I was never ok with the fact that they killed her off. Oh well at least she got a kick-ass dramatic death and we even got to see her as a zombie.

All jokes aside I’ve always remembered this installment of the horror series for two reasons. One is because of the beginning, where Alice awakens in her shower. Since then, it’s become a noteworthy scene that’s actually been replicated in the film series itself later on. The other reason is because of it’s cliffhanger ending. Since the majority of the film takes place in the Hive, we never really get to see what Raccoon City looks like in detail though it is mentioned throughout the film. Once we get to the ending however, the first shot we get, is that of a deserted apocalyptic-like city that’s basically been demolished by the undead while our main character had been isolated away by Umbrella. I’m not sure why, but that scene of the camera zooming out on Alice to showing what the city has become, has always been one of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever gazed upon.

You can see it for yourselves here if you want…

More Like *Adult’s* Play

Child's Play 1988

Freaking dolls. If Chucky had a successor it would have to be today’s Annabelle, but that’s besides the point. As a kid, I think this is where my fear of dolls began. Released in 1988, “Child’s Play” follows a young and innocent Andy Barclay who gets more than he bargained for when he gets a surprise birthday present.

*SPOILERS*

I was surprised by the amount of suspense that entails almost the entire first half of the movie. It keeps you guessing if a doll really can be a murdering psychopath until we actually do get to see Chucky come alive and scare the living feces out of us. As far as I’m concerned, all that suspense is worth it. Basically the origins of Chucky are explained through serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who ends up transferring his soul into a “Good-Guy” doll.

The rest of this story follows this not so good-guy doll pull on another string of murders that eventually result in our precious Andy becoming the prime suspect. Eventually it’s all up to Andy’s mother and a police detective to rescue Andy before Chucky transfers his soul into the little boy.

I’m not really sure if other films came before this one with a killer doll concept, but in terms of a story and characters, I loved the originality of this film. Out of all the horror franchises that I’ve seen, this is still my favorite one to date. Firstly I have to compliment whoever it is that designed the now infamous “Good-Guy” doll. It may appear friendly and cute to some but it really doesn’t look like anything I would’ve made my parents buy me at all.

I also have to compliment the young Alex Vincent for giving a terrific performance as Andy. For someone that young to be acting in a horror film, he did the best thing possible to showcase himself and portray just how an innocent little boy that’s getting haunted by a killer doll should be like. If he were looking back at his performance here, I’m sure he would be proud of himself.

Everyone else should get just as much recognition but the true standout in all of this, has to be Brad Dourif. I don’t think anyone else could’ve installed horror into a “cute” doll better than the individual that actually voiced it. A brash, word-cursing and aggressive voice-over performance by Mr. Dourif is just what was needed to make Chucky believable and obviously scary too. All my praise goes out to him as he can instill horror and even some humor with that Chucky voice to this day.

Even in its normal state I can remember that this doll still creeped me the hell out, so you can pretty much imagine my reaction as a kid once he came alive. If you want to know what I’m talking about, check out this little video treat…

So bad, you may actually like it

Jason X

My title at the beginning of this post pretty much says it all. Released in 2002, this dead-end sequel only sees our poor franchise character go from one bad setting to another (I’m referring to “Jason Goes to Manhattan”). While a movie about Jason going to the future may seem original and interesting, the actual finished product is anything but far from fascinating.

*SPOILERS*

Looking at the decision to put Jason in space and turn him into a robot-like serial killer was a bad move to begin with. The concept of that would involve killing the uniqueness of Jason. He belongs in Camp Crystal Lake where teenagers go to die. He connects with his setting and when I watched him being “revived” with technology in the middle of space, it just didn’t feel right. His character only gets more staler with what is supposed to be an “upgrade” for Jason.

Back to the story, Jason goes to space, starts killing some students and they even decide to throw an android into all of this. That is where I have another point to make. The aspect of putting more distinctive characters in the movie kind of takes away the attention that was supposed to be put on Jason. If the film starts becoming more about the science fiction aspect, then the horror element begins to drain itself out.

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks this. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE other films that can make this work like “Alien,” but with the serial killer from a closed summer camp, that just doesn’t sound right at all. In the end that only brings me to the weirdest point about how I ultimately feel about the movie.

It’s soooo bad that I actually thought it could be considered good for that very reason. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I’ll try. It’s like shooting for the stars and you only end falling on your head after jumping a few feet. You end up laughing maybe because of how hard they tried to make an upgrade for Jason, but instead he only ends up getting demoted even further down the list of slasher serial killers. The sequels only end up getting progressively worse and make you think twice about the film’s tagline, “Evil gets an upgrade.” Irony. I guess if you enjoyed this film you’d have to be a real hardcore science fiction fan or a real fan of Jason.

When Dolls Attack

Annabelle 2014

So while I was on vacation, I went to see “Annabelle” with some friends and family. A little side note: I actually liked “The Conjuring” and since then, I was really anticipating this semi-prequel. After watching it however I was anything but completely satisfied. It’s not bad but I find a lot of flaws in it.

*SPOILERS*

So basically if you haven’t watched “The Conjuring,” you can still watch this “horror movie” but there isn’t really anything new about this movie that I haven’t seen in other horror films. If anything, this actually made me laugh more than it did scare me. Most of its “scary” scenes are based purely on pop-up antics and out-of-nowhere surprises. Even so, there isn’t much that I can praise about the film other than maybe the way it was shot. It’s like a POV film which incorporates that element to have us see what the characters are seeing and just how terrified they and hopeless they are until something just pops up out of nowhere.

Everything else seems like it was just clustered up such as the story, the characters, the acting and obviously the Annabelle doll. I thought they were okay but even the woman from the library had more backstory than the main characters did. As for how the story played out, it was just like a haunted house movie, only here the house isn’t causing the haunting but the doll is. That’s where I want to talk about the infamous Annabelle doll. All we ever get out of “her” is the story that a crazed woman from a cult passes her soul into the doll and thus she is trying to summon some kind of demon. It admittedly is kind of creepy and realistic since this kind of situation can happen anywhere but I still thought they could give us something more.

The part I really disliked was the ending. Obviously you would expect some kind of resolution or cliffhanger, but the way this ending was done was anything but fascinating. It’s a simple sacrifice-to-save-another cliche moment where the librarian jumps to save the innocent baby from dying. There wasn’t any originality or surprise in making me wonder whether something unexpected would be played out. I’d actually prefer a cliffhanger ending.

Like I said, if you’re into “The Conjuring” this will be a bit of a loss of momentum, when you compare the two. I can say it definitely is worth a watch but that should be it. It’ll surely give some people a thrill but as for other horror movie-goers like me, I only ended up laughing more than being frightened. Put more simply, if you’ve seen the trailer, you will almost already know when to anticipate a scary sequence so you’ll probably end up laughing in excitement. At least that’s how my experience was. But like I just said, it’s still worth at least one watch, because after all… that is one creepy ass doll.

How to disappear… Like a boss

Hollow Man (2000)

For some odd reason I’ve always really liked this film. With Kevin Bacon as the titular “Hollow Man” the aspects of this film are really remarkable to me. The story of an invisible man and how it affects his physique sounds pretty cool, but as a kid I always enjoyed this film because of its effects.

*SPOILERS*

There’s a few scenes that I like about this film when it comes to those effects. The first would be when Bacon’s character begins to disappear in his lab from skin to tissue to muscle to body parts to bones. Another notable part was the whole mask-creating scene for Bacon’s character as well as his invisible body being shown through water, whether it was the pool scene or the sprinkler scene.

Story-wise I thought this film and its plot were relatively good enough. Scientist turns invisible, scientist becomes disturbed, scientist becomes obsessed with his own “power”, and scientist finally becomes a killer. I could maybe look at it kind of like a slasher towards the end, but overall, “Hollow Man” is decent enough if you want to see a film with REAL good effects. That’s just my take on it.

The Deep Space

Alien (1979)
From what I’ve been able to recognize, sic-fi was a huge kind of genre in the film industry and still is today. With futuristic settings and plots, Alien is one of those films that literally sucks you in to the drama and amazing sequences that follow some of the most horrific but memorable scenes in my opinion. From the “chestburster” to the “facehugger”, Alien beautifully blends horror with special effects as well as its implacable plot where the cast is hunted down by the titular character. For a film released in 1979, this one addresses itself as a milestone in the sic-fi genre at the time it was released. Along with the originality of the effects, it has its own unique plot-holes and open-endings, which would eventually spawn a franchise of its own. This film alone is by far a favorite of mine and whether or not its sequels would maybe cause some detractors, Alien for me continues to be the perfect combination of science fiction and horror.