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The Grudge 3 (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 5/12/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/27/2009

Any visitor to the this site knows that I love horror movies. But, one term which doesn't get me very excited is "direct-to-video horror sequel", especially if that title comes from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Just look at this companies track record; Vacancy 2, Boogeyman 2, Boogeyman 3, not to mention the Anaconda sequels. They seem to have a knack for taking a popular theatrical release and creating a terrible sequel for it. But, the law of averages says that sooner or later, one of these movies will be watchable. Will The Grudge 3 buck the trend?

While The Grudge took place entirely in Tokyo, part of The Grudge 2 occurred in Chicago, where Allison (Arielle Kebbel), a young girl who have visited the haunted house in Japan, returned home to her family, only to bring the curse with her. The Grudge 3 opens immediately following the events of The Grudge 2. The curse from the haunted house in Japan has wiped out two families, leaving only young Jake (Matthew Knight) alive. Having witnessed the death of his entire family, Jake is now institutionalized under the care of Dr. Sullivan (Shawnee Smith). Meanwhile, the landlord of the apartment building where the deaths occurred, Max (Gil McKinney), is trying to keep people from moving out, lest he lose his job. He is also taking care of his younger sister, Rose (Jadie Hobson), who suffers from a respiratory disease. His other sister, Lisa (Johanna E. Braddy), is planning to move to New York, and is of little help to Max. Things begin to get weird when Rose and Lisa see a young Asian boy (Shimba Tsuchiya) in the building. Then, Naoko (Emi Ikehata), arrives from Tokyo to try and warn everyone of Kayako's (Aiko Horiuchi) curse. But it may be too late.

I guess that this is as good a time as any to pay The Grudge 3 a compliment -- It's not as bad as the other direct-to-DVD sequels listed above. The movie does a have certain sense of professionalism which can often be missing from these movies. Director Toby Wilkins has worked in The Grudge universe before, as he created a series of short films which were included on The Grudge Director's Cut DVD and Blu-ray Disc release. He also directed the recently released Splinter, so he does have some experience behind the camera.

OK, now that I've got my compliment out of the way, I can discuss the many problems which haunt The Grudge 3. For starters, the movie does nothing to orient the viewer to time and place. It simply assumes that we have memorized The Grudge 2. Are you serious? I've seen that movie at least twice, but the details are real sketchy. There is no recap of The Grudge 2 here and the movie simply opens by telling us that Jake is the only member of his family to have survived. Couldn't they get the rights to footage from the second film so that we would be reminded of what happened? Ironically, footage from The Grudge 2 does appear on the DVD extras, during the piece where they are showing what a great job the production team did re-creating the sets from that movie. In order to write the above synopsis, I had to re-visit The Grudge 2 simply to remember how the curse got to Chicago. (Was it there to catch a Cubs game?)

So, we're thrown right in the middle of this story, so we're going to be lost, right? Well, if you've seen the first two films (even if you can't remember specifics), you won't be because The Grudge 3 is simply a continuation of the first two movies. Unknowing people either see Toshio or Kayako or both and die horrible deaths. The curse which started with Kayako's death in Japan has come to Chicago, and, as before, it doesn't care who it kills. Thus, we've learned by now to not get too attached to the characters, because any of them can die at any minute, no matter what they do. At least the first two films in this series had the novelty of being set in Japan and introducing us to a different culture. The vast majority of The Grudge 3 takes place inside a Chicago apartment building (which is actually a set in Bulgaria!) and feels like any other American horror movie. And while Wilkins is a somewhat competent director, he doesn't have the knack for framing creepy shots the way that Takashi Shimizu does. When all is said and done, The Grudge 3 feels like exactly what it is -- a cheap and unnecessary sequel.

The Grudge 3 makes that disturbing throat noise on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, but there is a slight sheen of grain on the image. There are no defects from the source materials. The colors are OK, but the picture is somewhat dark at times. I noted some mild artifacting in the darker scenes. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show nice speaker separation. The surround sound effects kick in during the scary sequences and do a fine job of placing the familiar "grudge" sound all around us. These same scenes occasionally have good subwoofer effects.

The Grudge 3 DVD contains three extra features. The DVD offers three DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. Each of these is brief, but two contain conversations about the hauntings which show that the characters are at least trying to have insight. "Tokyagoaria" (10 minutes) explains that the film was shot in Bulgaria. We see the sets being built in Bulgaria, while the Director and producers explain why the foreign locale was chosen. Young actor Matthew Knight lets us know how accurately the new set mimics the one from The Grudge 2. "The Curse Continues" (6 minutes) is more of a traditional "making of" which focues on the story and characters.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long