The basis of the plot: There is an urban legend of a VHS video tape which, if you see it, will kill you 7 days from first viewing. Some teenagers accidentally view it while in a cabin for the weekend, and soon all die off. Worried aunt, Rachel (Naomi Watts), of one of the deceased begins to investigate this phenomenon upon hearing of the legend and seeing the peculiarly timely deaths. She is also worried for her son, Aidan (David Dorfman), who was very close to his cousin.
In true horror movie form, and fairly reminiscent of "Candyman", Rachel watches the strange tape and then proceeds to show her ex-husband, Noah (Martin Henderson), and so on. Soon it's a race against time to try to solve the tape's origins and stop her impending death, while also experiencing the week-long haunting which comes with the sentence.
I enjoyed Naomi Watts' performance as the determined protagonist, as she slowly unravels the history of the tape and attempts to find a solution in order to help herself and others. She manages be both intense and strong without going into that annoying 'female lead' mode which involves a lot of screaming and hysterics.
Unlike Raimi, when he remade "The Grudge" some years later, Verbinski opted to take the story entirely out of Japan. I think both styles of remake have worked very well, and take nothing away from the story. But I do find "The Grudge" to be generally more scary, mainly because the ghost moves in a much more eerie manner than in this film, taking more styling from the Japanese originals.
The special effects are enjoyable, the tense scenes built up excellently and the enveloping story is good. There is a particular scene that I just can't watch again (I am a horse lover...)!
As I mentioned, I think the only reason this film just isn't as scary as the Japanese version is just the stylistic movements of the ghost girl, (Daveigh Chase), but the plot, acting and haunting scenes are good. And there are definitely scares to be had here, too! I especially enjoy the child actors in this film, who give a very convincing and unsettling performance.
[Image : Dreamworks Pictures]