There has to be a part of director Takashi Shimizu that prays The Grudge falls flat on its arse. If it's a hit - and there are enough scares to suggest it will be - then chances are Shimizu will be asked to helm a sequel. And if that happens, he'll surely believe he's cursed to make the same movie over and over and over again until the day he dies.
The Grudge isn't just a remake of his (overly) acclaimed Japanese `original' Ju-on: The Grudge, you see. No, it was Ju-on itself that was the remake - a theatrical remix of two straight-to-video Ju-ons that were in turn a reworking of a short film Shimizu made in 1998. No wonder he initially resisted when Sam Raimi requested a US redux.
But here it is, a reimagining that chooses to reimagine as little as possible, wisely retaining its Tokyo setting while recooling all the best chills. Anyone who's seen Ringu and Dark Water will know what to expect: lank-locked girl-ghosts; spooky children, fleetingly glimpsed; technological terrors; waxen bodies that creak, crack and cruelly contort (look out for Shimizu's answer to The Exorcist's spiderwalk); and a soundtrack that assaults with real subtlety, soft sighs and whispers coiling around hard clicks and clacks - the devil's vocab.
No doubting the director's ability to rustle up a fright, then, his restless, nervy camera spying protagonists from menacing angles in a world leeched of colour. It's just a shame that for every three shudders there's a risible snort - the liberal peppering of scares at times shoots straight up the nose.
More excusable is the filmmakers' decision to anchor a complex time-shifting structure with Sarah Michelle Gellar's anguished careworker. (The Japanese version offers no such through-line, with viewers expected to leapfrog from victim to victim like the curse itself.) It's not ideal, maybe, the donation of a guide only muffling the clanging sense of disorientation, but it's a forgivable concession to Western viewers. After all, The Ring saddled us with 40 minutes of pony backstory...
Takashi Shimizu remakes his hit "n"miss Japanese chiller to much the same effect. Be afraid - but be prepared for the odd cringe, too.