With the success of The Ring in 2002, Hollywood went looking for the next creepy Japanese horror film to remake, settling on Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge (2003). The original was frightening, atmospheric, and disturbing but suffered from an almost incomprehensible ending. For the remake, producer Sam Raimi did something almost unheard of: he hired the original director, Takashi Shimizu. The American version of the film is literally a re-shoot of the original, with certain tweaks and alterations. Imagine the original as a trial run, a chance to work out the bugs. Shimizu’s Grudge (2004) is a creepier, more intense film than the original, which in itself was incredibly frightening.

Rather than relying on excessive CGI and gore, Shimizu builds the tension and atmosphere through camera movement and composition. The soundtrack helps greatly in building suspense, as well. There are several sequences taken directly from the original film, with similar setups and framing. However, even if you’ve seen the original and know where all the scares come from, you will be scared by The Grudge. This is easily the most frightening film of the last five years.

The film isn’t perfect, however. In translating it for a non-Japanese audience, the American lead characters seem forced and out of place. Granted, without changing the characters and storyline, the remake does seem rather pointless. Unfortunately the film does degrade into standard Hollywood formula at some points, but these are few and forgivable.

See The Grudge, but don’t hold it against me when you can’t sleep for a week.