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From filmmaker Sam Raimi (Spider-Man(r), Army of Darkness) and acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Shimizu comes a terrifying tale of horror in the tradition of The Ring and 28 Days Later. Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer ) stars as an American nurse who has come to work in Tokyo. Following a series of horrifying and mysterious deaths, she encounters the vengeful supernatural spirit that possesses its victims, claims their souls, then passes its curse to another person in a spreading chain of horror. Now, she must find a way to break this supernatural spell or become the next victim of an ancient evil that never dies, but forever lives to kill.
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The story follows a young student care provider studying abroad in Japan played by Sarah Michelle Gellar who is assigned charge of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. What follows is a story of horror and suspense. Turn the lights out and the volume up and get ready for one of the best thriller/horror movies you've ever seen...
The film begins with some text telling us that when a really angry person bites during a fit of unprecedented rage, the negative energies stick around, creating some wickedly awesome bad mojo that waits to glom onto unsuspecting individuals who happen to visit the area, thus consuming their juicy and effervescent life force. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Karen Davis, an exchange student living in Japan with her boyfriend Doug (Behr) who's quite the hunk with his perfectly tousled hair...you know the style, it's the one that someone spends two hours and a whole lot of money at the hairdressers for to get that `just woke up' look (I get it every morning for free)...anyway, Karen, who's a nurse of sorts, receives an assignment to provide daytime care for a really creepy infirmed elderly woman (Zabriskie) after the mysterious disappearance of the previous caregiver named Yoko...alas, poor Yoko, I knew her not, Horatio, but she was a pretty, young, hello kitty maiden...anyway, Karen arrives at the house, sensing something odd, but goes about performing her chores. Turns out the crazy lady lives with her son (Mapother) and his wife (DuVall), neither of whom return home, prompting Karen to call her boss (Raimi) as she doesn't want to leave the goony old bat alone...but guess what? They're not alone...at least not in that house, as it has a violent history, and something was left behind, something in the form of a small, nekkid Japanese boy with a whole lot of eyeliner...and a big mouth...(the evil takes on many forms, but this was the oddest)
First of all, does anyone else think William Mapother is kinda creepy? I'm not talking about his character, but the man himself...his face is all scrunched up and too small for his head, reminding me of one of those angry midgets from the Phantasm movies...well, I suppose I'm no Adonis myself, and he's probably a very kind fellow...as I said before, I enjoyed this film. It sort of reminded me of a Japanese version of The Amityville Horror, but, instead of Satan moving in and causing all sorts of mischief, we have a nondescript evil entity, the result of a past incident of great anger and violence (the Japanese detective referred to it an `emotional stain'), indiscriminately preying on unsuspecting visitors who happen to enter the abode. I might be tempted to label this a haunted house story, but that's not entirely true as the malevolent force wasn't confined to the house, but rather latched on to individuals who spent time within the four walls, and subsequently followed them wherever they went until...well, let's just say following them around was by far the least harmful thing it would do...the story was actually pretty simple, but told in a way to make it appear more complicated. What I mean is instead of proceeding on a linear path, the film is edited in such a way that we see past sequences mixed in with scenes of the present, as they story crosses timeline boundaries, weaving three, connected tales into one. This kind of thing can get messed up very easily, but here they kept it clean, orderly, and understandable. The main one involves Sarah Michelle Gellar's character, the second involves the family currently residing in the house, and the third features the family that lived in the house three years past, and the ones responsible for all the stuff going on presently. Oddly, there seemed to be less focus on the characters and more on the story itself, which may be a result of cultural differences, I'm not sure, but it felt intentional, so I went with it...there are some good scares throughout the film, many the result of something seemingly innocuous in the background coming forth to surprise an unsuspecting audience, along with a few, drawn out sequences designed to create a sense of suspense. The overall effect for me was a permeating sense of unease, as the evil was clinging to the characters, biding its time. Overall I thought the cinematography was really beautiful, and I especially liked those long and foreboding shots, as they developed a real sense of tension. If you're looking for some visceral thrills, you'll probably be disappointed as the blood n' guts factor is minimal, but in terms of a spooky ghost story, the film does very well. I have only seen the PG-13 version, but there is an R rated directors cut available on DVD, one that features about six or seven minutes of extra footage.
The picture on this DVD, presented in widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic high definition, looks very sharp and clean and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio comes through very well. The PG-13 version that I have has a commentary track with producer Sam Raimi, screenwriter Stephen Susco, actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ted Raimi, KaDee Strickland, and Jason Behr, along with a couple of others. It also features a five part, `making of' documentary titled `A Powerful Rage', a featurette titled `Under the Skin' - A medical explanation of fear response in film, along with trailers, one for this film, along with The Forgotten (2004), Guess Who (2005), Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004), Boogeyman (2005), Riding Giants (2004), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Man of the House (2005), and Mirrormask (2005). The Director's Cut DVD contains a few more extras, so if you are planning on buying this film, keep an eye on which version you're getting, depending on what you're looking for...
By the way, did anyone notice how I got through this entire review without mentioning The Ring (2002)?