Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Reviewed by MaT, added on Jan 1 2005
What do you get when you throw a curse, a haunted house, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Japan together? You get this effective chiller which offers up many frights, while cribbing liberally from The Ring. A nurse (Gellar) working in Tokyo inadvertantly comes into contact with some really pissed off spirits who have a knack for killing anyone that enters their house. As the movie goes along, you'll discover what happened (possibly...) to the original inhabitants, see freaky ass little kids, and watch as scary pale Japanese girls make you piss your pants.
There is a lot to like and dislike about this film. First the good stuff; the film has an outstanding opening 15 minutes. Giving to much away will spoil the scares, but rest assured, the horror starts immediately. The film pretty much follows the original, even incorporating the same shots. This is mostly due to Shimizu, who directed the original Japanese version. As in The Ring, the production values have been ratcheted up, and the scare quotient has been re-adjusted for American audiences. The film also has extremely effective scare scenes. In fact, the scares are at least, if not superior, to the ones in The Ring. Some of the stuff is so creepy that I had goosebumps watching it. There isn't a lot of gore (this is a PG-13 horror flick), but the few "money shots" are well worth it. Plus, Ted Raimi is in it. You can't go wrong with anything with a Raimi involved (we don't talk about For Love of the Game).
Now to the bad. The film has so much in common with The Ring that it is quite difficult to watch it without thinking that they "stole" the idea. Instead of a video tape, its a house. The same pale girls with long black hair are around, the same type of props (mirror on the wall like in the videotape, vhs cassetes, ripped up pictures etc.) are used, telephones with strange sounds, a surveillance camera tape where the ghost does everything but come out of the tv, flies, and more. In fact, the only thing this movie didn't seem to have were the horses and the well. The movie moved quickly between scares and left little time for any character development which is a shame. Gellar seems to be in the movie only about half the time, the rest is an entirely different arc that reveals the backstory, which I must say, by the end of the film is confusing and a little stupid.
Is this movie worth seeing? Yes. It's got some incredibly creepy moments and as a horror film worked very well. If you can suffer through the lack of character development, a story that seems to have been ripped off from Ringu, and a confusing and incoherent finale, then you'll find an intriguing and effective fright fest that will keep you watching all the way through. I just wish that the movie had shored up its shortcomings and balanced the scares with an engaging story.