Complaints lead to rating change from M to R16.
The Grudge, an American remake of a Japanese film, originally carried an M rating in New Zealand. This rating was given to the film through the process of cross-rating unrestricted films with the rating they have been given by the Australian Classification Board.
The film is about a violent curse.
The Grudge is a psychological drama/horror film set in Tokyo (though American actors play the lead characters). A young American woman is studying and working as a part-time home-help in Tokyo. She goes to help an invalid American woman and becomes involved in the curse of a house inhabited by violently enraged ghosts who kill all who come into contact with them.
The Classification Office received complaints about horror scenes in the film.
In letters of complaint made to the Classification Office, members of the public raised concerns about the M rating on the film meaning that anyone, including young children, could potentially watch it. They felt that an age restriction would be more appropriate for the film, in one case after their child had seen the film, and in another after having viewed the film themselves.
Last week my 11-year-old daughter was talked into seeing this by a friend and a level headed, sensible child has been rendered seriously disturbed. I wonder if an age restricted rating, even R13, might have been more appropriate.Letter from complainant
I am concerned that the rating on the movie The Grudge ...does not reflect the disturbing potential impact this movie may have on some audiences... I do not like the idea that children will be allowed to see this film, and parents will let them because it is only an M-rated picture. I have a lot of respect for your office and the function it provides... However, on this particular occasion I felt like writing a friendly email to wonder if maybe certifying this movie for general exhibition might not have been a little generous... as a movie lover who has a strong belief in the function performed by the OFLC, I feel the need to register my feeling that, on this occasion, another look at the classification might be in order.Letter from complainant
The Chief Censor called The Grudge in for examination.
On 14 December 2004 the Chief Censor directed the Secretary for Internal Affairs under s13(3) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, to obtain a copy of the film and submit it for classification. In his direction to the Secretary for Internal Affairs to submit The Grudge, the Chief Censor outlined the following reasons:
The BBFC [British Board of Film Classification] restricted The Grudge to persons 15 years of age and over with a note that it contained 'strong psychological horror'. The rating given by the Australian Board appears anomalous in light of ratings awarded in other jurisdictions. The Office has also received complaints about the rating of the film. Although nearing the end of its theatrical run, any reclassifications will apply to identical video and DVD versions.Former Chief Censor Bill Hastings
The film was submitted on 21 December 2004 and examined for classification. Under section 3(1) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, matters of horror, cruelty and violence were considered in relation to The Grudge:
Some scenes in the film, especially those involving the depiction of realistic domestic violence, suicide and gruesome murders, are horrific in nature... Most depictions of violence employ camera cut-away techniques to reduce their impact and blood is minimal. Violence is implied by the discovery of dead bodies following scenes in which characters who investigate odd noises are suddenly confronted by ghostly faces and their bodies are pulled up into roof spaces or down into baths of water... Elements of cruelty are involved in the fear inflicted on characters before their death.Classification Office decision
Some scenes stood out as being more horrific.
There are a couple of scenes that differ slightly from the rest of the film in terms of their impact. One is a scene in which a character who was earlier snatched by one of the ghostly creatures haunting the house is rediscovered shuffling through an office at night. When she turns around, it is revealed that a part of her face has been removed. The depiction, although brief, stands out in the film in terms of its graphic impact. Another high-impact scene is a grainy black and white sequence which shows a man terrorising his wife and child before killing them and then himself. This scene functions as explanatory or contextual to the one which precedes it in which a woman's body is discovered. This rapidly edited sequence is of considerable impact due to its more realistic implication of domestic abuse and cruelty.
The film is likely to have a lasting impact on audiences.
The Classification Office concluded that although the infliction of serious physical harm in the feature was generally implied rather than directly depicted, the feature involved some genuinely frightening elements. While the impact of many of these scenes is lessened by the unlikely nature of some of the scenarios, the violence occurs in areas where people, especially children, are encouraged to believe they are safe.
The fear response of the audience is heightened by their own normal feelings of vulnerability when it is dark and they are alone. This is why fear responses are well-known to continue when the viewers of psychological thrillers and horror films return to their own real lives. Younger viewers, with less ability to determine the real from the choreographed special effect, are likely to find some of the more frightening scenes with their heavily implied violence, disturbing to them in other real situations. That the violently enraged and murderous 'spooks' are all Asian could also have a negative impact on the attitudes of younger viewers who have been disturbed or frightened by the publication. For these reasons the availability of the publication is restricted to persons 16 years of age and over.Classification Office decision
The Grudge was classified 'R16: contains horror scenes'.
RP16: graphic content may disturb.
20th Century Fox Film Distribution disagreed with the 'R16 content that may disturb' classification given to the film by the Classification Office and applied to have the decision reviewed. Find out more about 127 Hours
R13: contains violence, offensive language, drug use, and sex scenes.
Initially classified as R16 due to the violent and sexual material, and the depictions of drug use. On appeal by United Pictures this was reviewed and re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about 8 Mile
M: contains content that may disturb.
Originally cross-rated PG, we received complaints from parents that their children were frightened by the film. They asked the Chief Censor for permission to have the film assessed using our criteria. Find out more about Disney's A Christmas Carol
PG: some scenes may scare very young children.
Originally cross-rated G, we received complaints from parents that their young children were frightened by the film. As a result, the Chief Censor called the film in to be examined by the Classification Office. Find out more about Happy Feet
M: contains offensive language and sexual references.
This film had received its PG rating through the cross-rating process. After complaints from the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified. Find out more about Land of the Lost
RP13: contains violence, drug use and offensive language.
The unusual RP classification is used where a film presents ideas or issues that could challenge younger viewers but might still be valuable to them if they have support while watching. Find out more about Matariki
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
RP16: contains graphic violence (video).
Different versions of the film have different classifications as the law changed between the release of the film and the subsequent video. Find out more about Once Were Warriors
R15: contains violence and content that may disturb.
The film is about the massacre of 13 people at Aramoana - a tragic event in New Zealand's history - and this depiction of real life events required special consideration by the Classification Office. Find out more about Out of the Blue
R16: contains horror scenes and offensive language.
Members of the public complained to the Classification Office about the film's unrestricted M rating. They felt that the film was very frightening and contained extremely disturbing themes. Find out more about Paranormal Activity
R13: contains violence, offensive language and sexual references.
The "highly offensive language, much of it sexual in nature" in the film contributed to the R13 classification, as did the film's "crassly homophobic sentiments". Find out more about Paul
R15: depicts graphic and realistic war scenes.
This film generated much debate and became a benchmark for NZ film classification. It contains depictions of serious physical harm which are lengthy, frequent, and of a very graphic nature. Find out more about Saving Private Ryan
R13: contains violence and offensive language (film).
R16: contains violence, offensive language and content that may disturb (Blu-ray).
The Blu-ray edition has a higher rating as it also includes a short film, Manjha, that has the theme of sexual abuse.
Find out more about Slumdog Millionaire
R15: prolonged sequences of brutal violence, torture and cruelty.
The Office was inundated with letters of complaint and support over its R16 classification, which had included public consultation. On appeal, it was re-classified by the Board of Review. Find out more about The Passion of the Christ
An abundance of above-average scares ultimately makes The Grudge's portrait of contagious anger, violence, and death creepily unsettling.Nick Schager, Slant Magazine