The Grudge franchise based on the Japanese horror film Ju-On has provided three films with an upcoming fourth installment and there’s been plenty of chilling moments from the trilogy. The fourth has already been confirmed to be connected to the 2004 film, and the first official trailer appears to strive for that same level of horror.
Despite the fact that the films have never been popular with critics, the fanbase of the franchise has come to appreciate the fact that it brought a strong horror property to the US. Ahead of the upcoming release of The Grudge, it feels like it’s finally an appropriate time to celebrate some of the film series best moments so far.
5. The extended death scene (The Grudge)
The Grudge adds in several horrific visuals over the course of three films, but one less known is the reveal of Toshio’s spirit with his father’s body. What was seen in most versions is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character Karen Davis experiencing the past through the eyes of someone who was deceased, and an unlucky Karen gets to see a gruesome scene firsthand.
The full version shows Takeo’s body swinging from the ceiling and Toshio being the one to push him repeatedly. The walls, lighting, and direct shot of the entire room was a perfectly spooky standout scene that was more aftermath than actual death — something that’s entirely unexpected.
4. The significance of the eye (The Grudge)
The use of the eye in the first Grudge movie was symbolic of Kayako as well as her obsession with Peter (who had no clue, to begin with). Her constant drawings of eyes pop up over the course of the film, with some being cut out of photos or others scribbled in her notebook filled with secrets that would be a factor in her tragic death.
In particular, the scene where her notebook is read with her voice narrating and the discovery of bloody eyes smeared across pages. The book begins to flip through pages on its own with a final emphasis on an eye peeking through a page with a hole cut into it. It’s this scene that her instability is recognized at extreme levels and the use of an eye with it only enhances the eerie atmosphere she created.
3. Spreading the curse (The Grudge 2)
The Grudge 2 was very poorly received by critics, but there was some solid instance of horror that went unnoticed. One of which is the approach to follow non-linear storytelling that eventually merges multiple narratives together by the end of the film.
In The Grudge 2, the ending reveals that Kayako has killed multiple characters and has since spread to Chicago. The way it occurs isn’t clear in the beginning for obvious plot reasons, but the events in Japan follow one survivor to an apartment complex where the horror begins to similarly play out. A family experiences the rage of the curse and one who is tormented succumbs to the entity with the last scenes showcasing that some have become a part of the evil itself.
The ability to expand on the first film’s direction and utilize the notion of an all-consuming curse on the family finds a way to retell something we’ve experienced in a new way.
2. Toshio and Kayako vs Susan (The Grudge)
Don’t be fooled by the Godzilla vs Kong-style heading, this isn’t much of a fight on Susan’s part. The family targetted in the first film goes as far as following Susan, Matt’s sister who is rarely in the home. When things kick-off, she sees Kayako firsthand following her up a stairwell and appearing on a security camera with a static voice that perpetuate a sense of instant doom for Susan.
As she arrives home, we see an elevator ride where Toshio is shown at each floor getting closer to the door — but the scares only continue when entering her apartment. The phone call from her (deceased) brother as well as seeing him outside before Kyako proves a bed isn’t a very safe place was one of the most iconic scenes in The Grudge films.
1. Kyako’s origins explored (The Grudge 1-3)
If the eye scene was already something that felt on the eerie side, the rest of Kyako’s origin only solidified why she’s been a recurring horror figure in both the US and Japan. The first aspect of it comes from her obsession with Peter and the photos of her stalking him, but the attack from her husband gets even more hard to stomach.
The death of Kyako (and Toshio) was twisted enough as is, but knowing her hidden side and history of expelling demons made her a vessel for the supernatural. As a person, she could already deliver a scary tale as an unstable stalker — but her childhood and progression into becoming rage-induced curse after death make her a more complex character than one may assume.
Each film discovers a different way to focus on Kayako, and in the process, we are gleefully creeped out with every piece of her mysterious life.