Takashi Shimizu for “The Grudge”

When it comes to the finer points of modern horror, nobody does the genre better and with more skill than the Japanese. So when acclaimed director Takashi Shimizu was asked to remake his own hit film, Ju-On: The Grudge, Shimizu accepted then challenge, but not without some initial reluctance.

“At first I wasn’t interested in doing the remake, because I’d done the original and thought I was done”, the director explained through an interpreter whilst finishing cutting the film at Sony. “But Sam Raimi asked me again saying that he wanted this sense of aggression to come across in an American film plus the fact that the remake of The Ring did very well, convinced me that I should the Hollywood remake.” In the new version, Sarah Michelle Geller plays an American nurse living and working in Tokyo, who is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

Shimizu says he was surprised that the studio asked him to direct the movie, recalling his initial reaction was “What the hell are you talking about?” But shock gave way to calm acceptance, despite some obvious concerns. “Clearly I was concerned at the language barrier but actually it wasn’t that bad. For me, the biggest challenge and difference was working within the Hollywood studio system, so it was important that I was able to at least utilise a predominant Japanese crew , so I could have a similar situation when shooting in Japan,” he says. “Having American actors working in Japan, there’s always the difference in the system, seeing how thewy work and them, seeing how we do things in Japan.”

As for the casting of Geller, Shimizu says the actress was not attached but part of a list of possible candidates. “I’d known about Buffy and after I’d heard her name, I watched Cruel intentions and say her do a totally different character as this bad girl, so I got the impression that she was up to do something different, and I became very keen for Sarah to take it on.” Asked why he thinks Japanese horror has successfully crossed over into America, Shimizu feels that “Japanese horror is genuinely scarier than their American counterparts,” he explains. “There’s sophistication in Japanese scariness, of which there are two types. Japanese horror is intended to give audiences more mental scares, while in Hollywood it’s more simple surprising scares. I think audiences want to be more scared than in traditional Hollywood films, and Japanese films provide those.” Asked what audiences familiar with the original can expect from his remake, Shimizu laughingly says “Nothing, really. It’s a remake, so there are no surprises, but being a Hollywood film, it’s perhaps a little tidier in keeping with modern Hollywood expectations.”

Shimizu says he wants to eventually get away from horror, but is developing a horror comedy back in Japan. He doesn’t rule out the idea of a return to Hollywood in the near future. Meanwhile, he hopes to scare up a storm at the box office when The Grudge opens nationwide next month