The "return of saturn," is a popular theme derived from astrology and is often used in literature as a symbol for a period of change in a person's life. The application of this motif usually focuses on the results of the change or the emotional effects experienced as a result. "The Grudge," by Tool, uses the "return of saturn" as period in the listener's life in which an opportunity for change, whether positive or negative, is presented. With this possibility comes an imploration to utilize this phase of change to release the person from their confining personality trait: their grudge. Elements illustrating these ideas can be found in the song's imagery, structure, tone, and in the interaction between musical and lyrical aspects of the piece. The structure of the song consists of three main ideas; a description of the person's situation with regards to their lasting grudge and the need for change, the negative direction of the person's current attitude and the introduction of an instrument of change, and finally an imploration to the person to use this opportunity to change and better him/her self.

Beginning with a steady, rhythmic, almost chant-like sound, the main concept of the song is defined in a particularly aggressive and constrictive tone of voice, paralelling the restrictive quality of the Grudge the person is holding. The symbol of a "crown of negativity," combined with a need to, "control all and everything," describes the superior attitude and unrelenting closed-mindedness the grudge exerts upon its bearer. Suddenly, Maynard's voice opens up and, like a black veil lifted from a bright light, the reality of the situation is revealed to the listener. Representing the "cornerstone" of the person's existence, this restrictive attitude must be strictly held to, or the full reality of the situation will dawn upon the person. Before Maynard's voice re-constricts again, the instrument of change is introduced as "saturn ascends. Choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again." In a return of the constrained aggression shown in the first verses, the grudge and its negative effects are reiterated to introduce the next idea of the song; the likely direction of change.

"Unable to forgive. And sinking deeper!" emphasizes the desperate need for a change in the person's life, because the current attitudes will only lead deeper into the false reality of the grudge. Combining the ideas of the first part of the song, Maynard's concise and explosive first climax provides a motive to help the person change their misconceptions. With the constrained aggressive voice, the two antagonistic symbols of the stone and the child are introduced. Paralelling "one or ten," of the earlier words associated with the phase of change, these symbols are used as opposite extremes that the person now has to choose from. This choice between the stone, representing the hard, closed-minded attitude of the grudge, or the child, representing innocence and open-mindedness, is made possible by this major phase of change in the person's life ( "Saturn comes back around!" ). Choosing to maintain the grudge will, "drag you down like a stone to consume you 'till you let this go," thus introducing the final idea of the song. The shift in tone between "consume you 'till you" and "let this go," denotes the final shift of tone of the speaker and introduces a calmer, more refined and clear sound to illustrate the final concept in the song.

The imploration to choose to be lifted up like a child instead of returning to the grudge is noted by this major shift in the song's sonic texture. The next stanza is sung in a desperate, almost begging melody and exhibits diction completely different from the rest of the song. Strong water imagery ( "Ocean, anchor, waters") is used to form the pleading argument to "Let go." The anchor is a very powerful symbol, describing both it's resistance to change ( anchors are supposed to resist current ) and it's restrictive nature ( designed to keep a boat tied down ). However, describing the anchor as "fated," coincides with the almost-positive message, pleading to the person that there is still hope for change despite being dragged down like a stone. Once fully described, the release of this message triggers a breakdown in the song, returning to the fast-paced, rhythmic music with Maynard chanting, "Let go" repeatedly. This quick, pulsing quality of the breakdown imparts a feeling of urgency, paralelling the importance of the change in the person's attitudes.

Ending with this urgency ( no final release ) finalizes the message of the song. The "saturn return" theme is used as an opportunity for the audience's attitudes to change. This change is explored in the syntax and tone shifts experienced after the problem of the Grudge has been identified, after the change is introduced, and after the imploration to use the opportunity to better oneself. Whom the message is directed towards specifically is, in this case, meaningless. The piece is a general statement about using periods of change for self-reevaluation and to better oneself physically, spiritually, or emotionally.

Disagree with me? Send me a /msg or post a WU. I love hearing other people's thoughts on Tool songs and such.

Alright after seeing this movie twice I feel that I should at least make an effort at writing it up. But I must admit upon the first screening I was rather under the influence and found it much more entertaining. Anyways, here goes:

The equation for the movie: take two parts The Ring and add it to one part of the Exorcist. Then mix in half a part of Lost In Translation and stir. Tada! you have The Grudge.

Scare factor:

This movie definitely milks the Japanese scare tactics used first in Ringu then the Americanized version, The Ring. The basic formula in all these movies is to take a skinny boy/girl that has died, make them live again, only this time with long stringy hair and really dark grey/black faces, and bright white eyes. Make them move in jerks and spasms, and usually have them scarred with blood and soaked in water. Make them appear when the music gets most intense and always have them moving toward the main character of the scene. The Grudge uses these tactics in conjunction with Exorcist-like flashes throughout to invoke the same shock value as its predecessors.

This is one of those "Oh damn son, don't go in there! Oh you ho, you went in there, now look what happened, you dead. WTF did you expect fool?" type of movies. Yet even though you may know exactly what's coming you still can let yourself get sucked into it and get the crap scared out of you by what happens. And as I mentioned before, upon my first visit I had shared a 24 pack of PBR and took a few bong hits with a group of friends, so I wasn't exactly able to point out the downfalls in the plot, I was too enveloped in the present moment. So, not to promote either drinking or smoking, but I did enjoy the movie much more so while intoxicated, but that's just me. Also, friends to hang onto are always a good idea during scary movies, so I recommend having them around. To conclude, scare factor first time was 9 out of 10 scares, while the second time (sober) 6 of 10.

Plot factor:

Although the story is fairly weak and inconclusive, I'll at least attempt a synopsis.

Attention all passengers, please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for spoilers.

So we start off with a suicide and then a death, it's up to you to find out why. You are then introduced to the protagonist, an American student studying abroad in Japan, Karen, and her boyfriend Doug. We find that she is working at an assisted living facility and receives her very first solo assignment, to check in on Emma, a sleep-deprived catatonic, with a continual look of fear on her face. We soon find out why. There is an evil spirit about the house which causes those in it to die by various variations at the hands of a dead boy and girl (see above).

We are then sent into a flashback in which we are introduced to Emma's family as they are purchasing the house, it is clearly evident that it's haunted, but they buy it anyways (see this). They all die at the hands of the two demonic entities in scary ways. Skipping ahead to the important stuff, we have a scene in which a Karen and a detective are speaking about the house, the detective says that the house has evil living in it due to the rage induced deaths. He goes to burn the house down, because it seems to be the only way now. But before he lights the gasoline he hears a sound coming from upstairs and goes to investigates, what could it be you ask? well its those goddam evil things at it again! He dies. So, finally we have Doug going to the house because he finds Karen's research and thinks she is there. Karen gets a message from Doug and goes to the house as well, but when she arrives she finds the man who committed suicide at the very beginning of the movie, he can't see her, however, because he’s dead, errr something (???). We find out that he has come to the house because he is getting numerous letters from its occupant, apparently an older student of his (ohhhh, it's a flashback, but how is Karen there? Again I give you this). He stumbles upon a shrine in tribute to himself, and we realize that the woman has been killed, so the pieces start to fit together. REVALATION! Married woman has obsession with American professor, her husband finds out and kills her and their son, then himself. Professor comes, finds all dead, goes and commits suicide. Dead woman and son haunt house, killing all who enter. So we return to find Karen, who finds Doug, so scared that he can't move, but instead of fleeing the house she tries to drag him out. The killer duo strikes again, but before they can devour Karen she lights the gasoline brought previously by the detective. You think it’s all over as the house bursts into flame.

Wrong. We arrive at the morgue where there is only one dead body, KAREN IS ALIVE. She goes to look at the face of the body on the table, alone. But before we can find out and get this all behind us we see the camera rotate to see that there is someone standing back-to-back with her, the camera swerves as both heads turn towards each other, IT’S THE DEAD WOMAN! Final scare, the movie's over.

So if you are looking for a mildly entertaining movie to go see and don’t want anything too conclusive or thought provoking, I recommend The Grudge, and go with friends, it makes it a whole lot better, trust me.

Information factor:

I’m not going to bother reposting info from IMDB, so I’ll just recommend going here:


In Japan, it is said that if someone dies in great sorrow or rage, they leave a taint on the place of their death....

There’s a taint here, all right. In America, it is said that nothing succeeds like success. This is, perhaps, the reason we have to endure all these wretched American remakes of Japanese films, from Godzilla to the Ring to Shall We Dance and the latest rehash, the Grudge. And this is, as far as I can tell, the reason all the critics are lining up to praise this gimmicky, tired little ghost story. That must be the reason. The critics have noticed that the cool thing to do is to praise Japanese horror and all of its byproducts. This is where the critics and I begin to disagree, because as far as I can tell there has never been a worthy American remake of a Japanese movie – including the Magnificent Seven, you poor misguided Western fans – and the Grudge is nowhere near breaking that trend.

The Grudge attempts to one-up the other remakes and establish some credibility with the gimmick that this time, the remake has the same director as the Japanese version. In fact, if you count this version, director Takashi Shimizu has made this movie no less than five times with minor variations, and quite honestly, it feels that way - the Grudge throws around bits and pieces of concepts like a novel that’s been rewritten half a dozen times by an author who couldn’t decide which hook he liked best. First it claims that the evil “taint” is focussed on a specific place, then it gives us revenants popping up all over Tokyo. Sometimes its ghosts are the average spooky children we all love, then they’re some kind of monster dolls, then they’re turning into ominous black shadows. There’s no internal logic to it. It’s a mess.

This is a serious problem that no number of ominous tracking shots and fright music can overcome. Contrary to what some people think, a good horror movie is not just a series of scares. Classic horror depends on a cumulative effect, usually expressed as a creeping sense of unrest that gets more and more palpable. There’s a scene that was cut from the movie Alien (and rather stupidly reinserted in last year’s “Director’s Cut”) not because it wasn’t a good scene, but because it revealed too much about the xenomorph. Ridley Scott didn’t want audiences to see the real shape of his beast until they were ready to scream for it. He knew about creeping unrest. He knew that once the monster is revealed, it’s all over. Shimizu does not seem to know this. She keeps on building up suspenseful scenes, then suddenly shifting logic.

The protagonists shift all the time, too. First we’re watching Bill Pullman looking brilliantly disturbed. Then we’re following Buffy and her nondescript boyfriend. Then we see one family killed. Then we’re off to watch another character die, just because she happened to have entered the haunted house once. (And why exactly didn’t the real estate agent die?) Then we’re back with Buffy, and she’s watching a psychic flashback with Bill Pullman again. Now, ordinarily I love to watch Bill Pullman act, but the guy has nothing at all to work with here after his first death scene, so what the hell is the point?

No point at all. It’s just a cheap form of horror exposition. Need to show the audience how the curse started? No problem, guv, just throw in a psychic instant replay of the original murder or whatever it was, and show your protagonist watching the action with her eyes wide open in shock. Follow this immediately with a wet horror flopping slowly downstairs towards the heroine. Money in the bank.

Any other cheap, familiar horror tactics we can use here? The Grudge has them all. We’ve got the victim peeking into an attic, looking all around her in a slow pan before seeing the monster right behind her. We’ve got the shot of the victim getting pulled up into the attic, legs kicking weakly. We’ve got the scene where the heroine searches the Web for news of a murder. The monster in the bathtub. The false positive negated at the last second, and even the false positive negated and then reconfirmed, believe it or not. The crescendo of fright music accompanying every death. The shot where the victim looks just over the cameraman’s shoulder - about seven times. (Speaking of which, was this entire movie shot with shouldercams, or was the projector in my cinema all fucked up?)

But the thing that annoyed me most about the Grudge was the way it blatantly and cheaply borrowed material from Ringu. Several of the most important elements of this movie are simply stolen. Look at the poster for Grudge. Now go look online for a copy of the Japanese poster art for Ringu. Looks awfully similar, doesn’t it? And I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that this image is actually one of the final shots in both movies. The money shot, as it were. Different eyeball, same picture, right down the strands of wet black hair framing the eye.

Backtrack now, to the scene where the detective watches the surveillance tapes and sees the dark figure moving slowly down the corridor. Does this seem at all familiar? You betcha. It’s the end of the videotape in Ringu - except in Ringu, it was an important scene, a setup that paid off with the movie’s most frightening thirty seconds, a scene that I think ranks right up there with Psycho’s shower scene and the scar-comparing scene in Jaws as one of the Great Moments of Horror. I might add, in case some people who saw the Ring but not Ringu are now shaking their heads at what they think to be fannish hyperbole, that this scene was very poorly handled in the American version of Ringu. And yet, that bastardized version of the videotape scene is cinematic gold compared to the way they handle it in the Grudge. Half the audience in my theatre was laughing out loud when the tape finished playing, and I wanted to whistle the theme music to either the Twilight Zone or the X-Files, but I was too busy groaning in disgust to be clever.

And so it goes. There are frightening moments in the Grudge, don’t get me wrong. Its monsters are quite passable icky-cute scary creatures, and you’ll be cringing in your seat during several scenes. But inconsistent logic, blatantly retreaded horror motifs and shots, hyper-annoying music and the utter lack of a coherent plot make this just another by-the-numbers renter. It’ll make an hour and forty minutes pass, for sure, but I really doubt you’ll remember any of it two weeks later. I would advise saving your first-run dollars and renting Ringu instead.

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