Starring: Johanna E Braddy, Emi Ikehata, Jadie Hobson, Gil McKinney
A young Japanese woman who holds the key to stopping the evil spirit of Kayako, travels to the haunted Chicago apartment from the previous sequel, to stop the curse of Kayako once and for all and save a family, and potentially all of Chicago, from her malicious spirit.
I wasn't looking forward to reviewing The Grudge 3. Why, I hear you cry? Well, I love Splinter, Toby wilkins debut horror for the very reasons that I assumed I'd hate this film; originality. I also hated the previous movie The Grudge 2 which I felt was an overlong, repetitive bore with little or no horror value. So I breathed a sigh of relief after seeing this straight to video chiller; it wasn't bad at all.
It opens with the same message from the previous sequel, about the curse etc. I was wondering, for a second, if I'd stuck the wrong disc in the DVD player. Then we go to an asylum with the surviving boy from the previous film. "Phantasm 2!" I thought. The boy will become some gun-toting hero as he pretend he's well again. Er, no. He dispatched in a suitably creepy way, as seen by a CCTV camera. This, all before the imaginative credits.
When watching credits, I normally get an ADD moment. With
The Grudge 3
the credits had my full attention. Whilst they reiterated the origin of the Curse, it was done with flair. Also, I don't recall the Father killing the cat! That went to explaining the cat noise that the boy ghost makes to me. Somehow, but not at all surprisingly, that detail previously escaped my notice. The credit sequence was more interesting than the whole of Grudge 2.
The film proper begins with a couple seemingly about to get "jiggy" with it when the girl notices a piece of crime hazard tape on her clothing, then she notices with dread that this isn't the place to be having fun. The couple that are trying to get some quality time are Lisa (Johanna E. Braddy) and her boyfriend Andy (Beau Mirchoff). Lisa is due to move away to New York , to capitalise on an work opportunity. This isn't popular with her brother, Max (Gil McKinney) who has had to look after their sister Rose (Jadie Hobson) who has an ailment. Max is under pressure to keep tenants in a building that has suffered through a couple of murders. What none of them realise is that he is becoming infected with the same evil that caused so much havoc in the Japanese household.
Naoko (Emi Ikehata) arrives and eventually reveals herself as the sister of the dead Kayako (the spirit girl) and Toshio (the spirit boy). She tells Lisa that if she participates, with Rose, in a ritual, then the Curse will be lifted. the body count rises and things don't turn out according to plan.
Borrowing a format used by other sites, as a one off for this film, I'll separate the good and the bad;
What I liked;
The cast gave, on the whole, solid performances. Johanna reminded me of a young Elisabeth Shue; not a bad thing. Jadie Hobson played a sympathetic role, as Rose. At one point, I was genuinely worried for the character and slightly moved by her predicament as her guardian began to show real signs of going psycho. Aiko Horiuchi as Kayako was chillingly creepy whenever she appeared. The visual FX and direction helped, of course, but i don't remember the character being as unnerving in the previous entries. The ordinary locations gave the events a more realistic reference, as opposed to the Japanese locations previously. I related more as I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Japan . As this film was, effectively episode 5 of the story (Takashi Shimizu had stated that the US version of Ju-Hon were sequels not reboots or remakes) I was grateful that the story had become more linear and not peppered with unusual timelines.
Marina Sirtis' cameo was superb, coupled with a great bit scare involving a painting. This scene was exceptionally well done. I never believe that low budget = low quality and the producers and director do a good job with what I assume wasn't a great deal of cash. For example the Kayako contortion effects. Gretchen's murder reminded me of Marge's demise in Halloween III - a good thing.
An intentional/unintentional comedy moment, for me, was a conversation between Max and Lisa. Max is trying to persuade Lisa to stay in Chicago and not go to New York. The pattern of the conversation was very familiar and I half expected;
"But the harvest is when I need you the most..."
What I disliked;
I wasn't convinced by the character of Andy (Beau Mirchoff). I'm not sure if it was the actor or the writing but Andy seemed far more shallow than the rest of the characters. If he was meant this way, then my hat's off to those involved. No-one seemed as bothered as they should be by what had happened in that house and the subsequent events that transpired. Max seemed more concerned that Marina Sirtis' character Gretchen wouldn't be able to look after Rose, but then he could have already been infected by the Curse, that was unclear to me at that point in the film. The boy spirit just isn't scary. I wondered if that was intentional, because I've never seen him scary apart from in the first Ju-On. He racks up enough of a kill count but lacks the very real spookiness of Kayako.
Surprisingly interesting given that the previous two lacked scares. With the right movies behind him, I expect Toby Wilkins to be spoken of with the same reverence as John Carpenter, and potentially Sam Raimi. Not false praise after Splinter and what The Grudge 3 shows; a mastery over the camera despite the shortcomings of a franchise. Whilst not as satisfying as Splinter, a film worth checking out.