The Saeki Family
Kayako Saeki (née Kawamata)
The Big Bad of the series, Kayako was an ordinary Housewife who has an obsessive crush on a teacher Peter Kirk. Unfortunately, her husband Takeo found out and brutally killed her, along with her son Toshio and the family cat Mar. Brought back by her family's rage as a Curse, Kayako appears as a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, crawling about to hunt down and kill anyone who enters her house to consume them in the curse. She is most iconic for crawling her way down the stairs, and lets out a chilling death rattle whenever she appears.
- And I Must Scream: The curse effectively traps her in a cycle of overpowering, murderous rage.
- Apocalypse Maiden: If the curse can spread THAT easily the whole world is screwed.
- Ax-Crazy: A side-effect of the unstoppable, murderous rage from the curse.
- Bedmate Reveal: Played with when Kayako kills Susan.
- Blood from the Mouth: After she is killed.
- Chest Burster: In the extended version of The Grudge 2, Kayako kills Mrs. Davis by ejecting herself from her mouth as a one-eyed hairball.
- Cute Monster Girl: Seen as this to some viewers and fans.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Kayako often pulls this on most of her victims. Most notable are Yoko, Jake, Gretchen, Mrs. Davies and Karen.
- Eye Scream: Kayako gouges out Gretchen's eyes.
- Housewife: Before being killed by her husband.
- Jump Scare: She pulls this a lot on her victims before actually killing them.
- Madwoman in the Attic: Make that dead woman in the attic.
- MayDecember Romance: She is madly in love with Peter Kirk, a man who is 21 years older than her.
- Neck Snap: Used on Doctor Sullivan in the third film.
- Peekaboo Corpse: Her corpse flies out of the attic in front of Peter.
- Prehensile Hair: Kayako uses her hair to hang Takeo, and kill Vanessa in the second film.
- Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: Kayako is trapped inside Rose's body in The Grudge 3.
- Spooky Painting: Kayako emerges from a painting to kill Gretchen.
- Spooky Photographs: Kayako kills Eason by emerging from one.
- Stalker with a Crush: Karen found several photos of Kayako stalking Peter and his wife in the background of each photo. She wrote a very personal diary of her feelings for Peter, which Takeo found, leading to the family's deaths.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: One of the most iconic examples in cinema.
- Tragic Villain: She was murdered by her husband then in her dying moments witnessed him murder their son, and the curse seems to permanently keep her in the hate-filled state of mind she was in, if not making it even worse. After witnessing her husband kill Audrey Davis in the same way her husband did she finishes the job, pitying the young girl for meeting her end in the same way as she had
- Woman Scorned: Takeo is apparently her first victim, although it looks like he hung himself.
- Yandere: Shows signs of this in her diary.
- Played by: Yuya Ozeki (The Grudge), Ohga Tanaka (The Grudge 2), Shimba Tsuchiya (The Grudge 3)
Kayako's young son who was drowned by his father Takeo after witnessing him murder his mother. Appearing as a ghostly pale little boy, Toshio is the only ghost shown to talk but most of the time meows at his victims.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Sometimes portrayed as having these, noticeably in box-art.
- Cat Scare: He often scares characters (and viewers) by meowing at them, sometimes on the phone.
- Creepy Child: He sits somewhere in the spooky realm (pun intended) between creepy and adorable. For some people, the sight of a small ghost child with the baby fat still visible on his limbs and torso and a habit of meowing like a cat is actually quite hilarious, but for other people, he falls straight in the uncanny valley, especially when he smiles.
- Creepy Monotone
- Elevator Snare: Susan flees Kayako into an elevator and appears to be safe. That is until Toshio is seen on the passing floor, and the next, and the next, and so on and so forth... getting closer with each passing floor.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He wasn't really evil while alive but appears to have been somewhat aloof and distant.
- Killer Rabbit: Despite his harmless appearance, he is actually quite dangerous, and appears to be act with genuine intent to harm. At one point he grins before devouring the soul of a woman, suggesting that he gets a sick, child-like pleasure from his activities.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: He appears to have been very fond of his cat, Mar, the bond was so close that his spirit partially merged with the spirit of the black cat. Yet even in life, he was seldom portrayed acting with affection towards other people.
- Peekaboo Corpse: Averted. His corpse was hidden in a closet, Karen finding the ghost of Toshio in there during her first visit to the house.
- Played by: Takashi Matsuyama
Kayako's husband and Toshio's father. Takeo found out about his wife's obsessive crush on Peter Kirk and didn't take it very well. He broke his wife's neck, drowned his son in the bath (to cover up his tracks), and then killed the family cat for some reason. He was then killed by Kayako's ghost although it looks like he hung himself. Part of the curse, Takeo rarely appears and when he does, it is to re-enact the murder of his wife.
- Asshole Victim: And the first of many victims, assholes or not.
- Ax-Crazy: Seems this way when he attacks Kayako, throwing himself against the walls and doing an eerie head spasm before he breaks his wife's neck.
- Demonic Possession: He pulls this in the third film with Max, killing Naoko, his sister-in-law in the process.
- Driven to Suicide: Seemingly hangs himself but is really killed by Kayako using her own hair as a noose.
- Fallen Hero: Takeo was a loving father and husband before he found out about Kayako's crush.
- Freak Out: Takeo has one hell of a one, flipping out and cutting Kayako's face out of all the family photos!
- Harmful to Minors: He kills Toshio to cover up his tracks, but is still considered the primary suspect by the police.
- Neck Snap: Takeo kills Kayako this way, and then with Aubrey.
- Oh, Crap!: Kayako's expression when she realises Takeo read her diary.
- Room Full of Crazy: The room Takeo uses to hide Kayako's body.
- Vicious Cycle: Subverted. Takeo repeatedly kills victims by re-enacting Kayako's death, although in Naoko's case he stabbed through the back of the neck with a knife.
- Would Hit a Girl: Would kill one, in fact, for having an obsessive crush on another man.
- Would Hurt a Child: After snapping his wife's neck, he proceeds to drown their son in the bathtub to cover his tracks.
The family cat, Mar was Toshio's best friend until both were murdered by Takeo. Rarely appears but is used to lure victims into the house or appear as a "pilot fish" before Kayako comes for her victims. It is confusing why Takeo killed the cat, but its likely out of pure rage.
- Right-Hand Cat: To Toshio mostly.
- Played by: Emi Ikehata
Kayako's sister. Naoko goes to the Chicago apartment to exoricse her sister and end the curse. Unfortunately, it doesn't go very well. She is attacked by a Takeo-possessed Max and killed by him, only to rise as a ghost like her sister and kill Max.
- Blood Magic: Naoko conviniently has some of Kayako's blood which must be drank by a willing witness to seal Kayako away.
Characters in The Grudge
- Played by: Sarah Michelle Gellar
An American careworker living in Tokyo, Karen goes to look after the elderly Emma at the Saeki House and is stalked by Kayako. She investigates the family's murder whilst people around her are consumed by the curse including her boyfriend Doug. She eventually attempts to burn the house down, but is killed by Kayako in the second film.
- Anti-Hero: She turns into this when she uses pragmatic methods to end the curse, such as burning the house down.
- Beauty to Beast: Karen's face is badly burnt and disfigured in the fire, causing her to lose her good looks.
- Break the Cutie: Poor girl had it rough trying to find the solution to avert the curse. Then Kayako killed her in the second film...
- Driven to Suicide: Averted. Kayako actually drags her off the roof of a hospital, making it look like Karen jumped.
- Final Girl: The protagonist and sole survivor of the first movie.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Blond-haired and well-meaning.
- Kill It with Fire: Karen attempts to burn the house down to end the curse, but only ends up making it worse by breaking the seal that keeps the curse contained in the house.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Burning the house down did not work - it only made things worse, with the curse made easier to spread.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: When she's straddling and kissing Doug, in her pajamas, while talking about how he doesn't have to leave for another twenty minutes, right before the camera cuts away from them.
- Shower of Angst: Karen has one, only for Kayako's hand to come out of the back of her head!
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With her sister Aubrey.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Is one of the first to go in the second movie. Her hospitalization is why her sister comes to Tokyo, investigating her death is why she gets involved with the curse.
- Tears of Fear: When she first meets Kayako.
- Played by: Jason Behr
Karen's boyfriend, who attends the University of Tokyo. He does not play much of a part in the film until the very end where Karen finds him wandering the Saeki House, both at the mercy of Kayako.
- Played by: Bill Pullman
A teacher who Kayako had an obsessive crush on, stalking him and writing quite insanely about him a diary, leading to Takeo murdering his family and creating the curse. Peter visits the Saeki House to talk to Toshio's parents, finding Kayako's corpse and how crazy she was about him. He then is (apparently) Driven to Suicide.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Not that he knew about it until too late.
- Dead Star Walking: He's played by Bill Pullman, and he dies in the first five minutes. (Of course, he appears later due to the Anachronic Order of the film, but this trope still applies.)
- Driven to Suicide: Although it is strongly implied that he may have been under the influence of the curse.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: In the Director's Cut, the camera focuses on his dead face for a couple of seconds.
- Hot Teacher: In Kayako's eyes anyway.
- Played by: Ryo Ishibashi
A Japanese police detective, Nakagawa is the latest in a long line of officers investigating the Saeki house deaths, three officers (who were also his friends) before him disappearing. A bit of a Hardboiled Detective, Nakagawa eventually attempts to destroy the house by burning it down. He fails.
- Beard of Sorrow: A taped interview with him in the second film discussing the disappearance of his colleagues and the death of the Williams family shows him looking extremely unkempt.
- Composite Character: He shares the name and profession of Detective Nakagawa from the original Ju-on film series, but his personality and actions are closer to that of retired detective Toyama, also from Ju-on. Like Toyama, he lost his colleagues to the curse, and also tries to burn the house down.
- It's Personal: It's implied that one of the driving forces behind his attempt to destroy the house is due to three of his friends being claimed by the curse.
- Kill It with Fire: Nakagawa attempts to burn down the house, but is lured to his doom by Toshio and Takeo.
The Williams Family (Matthew, Jennifer, Emma, Susan)
- Matthew played by: William MapotherJennifer played by: Clea DuVallEmma played by: Grace ZabriskieSusan played by: KaDee Strickland
The American family who moved into the Saeki house after the murders were cleared up. However, they all quickly become part of the curse on the house.
- Bedmate Reveal: Susan gets a nasty surprise when Kayako pops up in her bed.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Emma seemingly acts like this at times.
- Death from Above: Emma is killed when Kayako descends from the ceiling to end her life.
- Demonic Possession: In deleted scenes, Matthew is possessed by Takeo.
- Elevator Escape: Susan flees from Kayako's ghost into an elevator, not noticing Toshio watching her on every passing floor.
- Family Versus Career: Subtly hinted at with Susan. She wears a wedding ring and one out-of-focus picture in her apartment might be of a little boy (the lighting makes it hard to tell), but she seems to live alone while she works at her overseas job.
- Fish out of Water: Jennifer feels particularly out of touch in Japan.
- Grumpy Old Man: Emma seems like this at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that the reason she acts so sullen is because she knows something isn't right with the house.
- Honest Corporate Executive: Susan comes across as one, although it isn't shown exactly what she does so it's hard to tell for sure. She's seen working in a cubicle and talking into a headset, and spends all of her screen time prior to being menaced by the ghosts either showing concerns about getting her mother safe and pleasant care or being respectful of local customs.
Yoko and Alex Jones
- Yoko played by: Yoko MakiAlex played by: Ted Raimi
Employees at a careworkers office. Alex runs the business, whilst Yoko is meant to be caring for Emma. Unfortunately, she becomes a victim of the curse and suffers a painful death. Alex later meets his end at the hands of Yoko's ghost.
- Jawbreaker: Yoko ends up with her jaw torn off at Kayako's hands.
Characters in The Grudge 2
Aubrey Davis/The New Kayako
- Played by: Amber Tamblyn
Karen's younger sister and mistreated by her controlling mother. She goes to Japan to bring Karen home, but soon gets involved in the curse of the Saeki household.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents: When Karen is killed.
- Calling the Old Man Out: She finally tells her mother exactly how she feels. Sadly, it's the last time they ever speak.
- Fusion Dance: It's possible that by dying the same way as Kayako, not only she becomes the new Kayako, but has somehow assimilated with Kayako herself into one onryo entity, similar to what Kayako would do with another protagonist and Sadako in the ending of Kayako's later crossover outing Sadako vs. Kayako.
- Neck Snap She meets her end in the same way as Kayako: having her neck snapped by Takeo.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: The ending shows that she too has become an onryo.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Becomes the new Kayako.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Has a bit of this going on with her mother.
- Played by: Edison Chen
An Intrepid Reporter from Hong Kong who rescued Karen from the house fire but is also cursed as a result.
- Spooky Photographs: One of his many photographs of the Saeki house reveal that the curse has spread by showing Kayako's silhouette emerging from the house. Which then leads into Kayako herself emerging from the photo.
- Played by: Joanna Cassidy
Karen and Aubrey's abusive, terminally ill mother.
- Abusive Parents: She makes it clear that she prefers Karen over Aubrey, and subjects the latter to constant emotional abuse.
- Ill Girl: A rare unsympathetic example. It's never stated exactly what kind of illness she has, but it leaves her with a nasty cough and breathing difficulties.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Having a terminal illness causes her to have this and breathing difficulties as mentioned above.
- Jerkass: She goes really hard on Aubrey, forcing her to face triad after triad.
Allison Fleming, Vanessa and Miyuki
- Allison played by: Arielle KebbelVanessa played by: Teresa PalmerMiyuki played by: Misako Uno
A trio of students in Japan who visit the Saeki house. Vanessa and Miyuki trap Allison in the closet until Kayako/Aubrey appears and they soon become victims of the curse.
- Alpha Bitch: Vanessa is the queen bee and most popular girl in school but has a very mean streak and picks on targets like Allison.
- Asshole Victim: Vanessa suffers an incredibly cruel fate from the curse, but she is a jerk and bully whose actions led to her own demise.
- Beauty Is Bad: Vanessa is very beautiful but can be very cruel and she is responsible for unleashing the curse and potentially dooming humanity.
- Beauty to Beast: Vanessa and Miyuki when they are transformed into horrifying onryōs by the curse. Vanessa also loses her good looks while she is still alive, as, at the start of the movie, she is considered by her classmates to be the prettiest girl in the school by far but, by the time she enters the principal's office, she is no longer beautiful and is less attractive than many of her classmates. This process is accelerated in a delete scene, in which the curse has significantly disfigured Vanessa and she becomes distraught in the hallway when she realizes she has become ugly.
- Break the Cutie: Allison is a shy wallflower that just wanted to be popular but ends up having her life ruined by the curse.
- Break the Haughty: Vanessa starts as a vain, haughty school beauty and queen bee that likes to lord her good looks over her friends and has a penchant for bullying certain targets. She loses her haughtiness after being terrorized by the curse and loses all her beauty as an effect of the curse, and becomes unpopular and much less pretty than the girls she used to make fun of.
- The Bully: Vanessa and Miyuki, although Vanessa is the worst.
- Femme Fatalons: Miyuki certainly has a long set of nails. She retains them after becoming a ghost.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Vanessa. Despite being an Alpha Bitch who vilely bullied Allison and Miyuki, cruelly pranked and scared Allison and got several people killed with her dangerous and careless actions she seemed genuinely concerned when she found out Miyuki was missing, trying to contact her and seemed genuinely remorseful of her actions, which may Imply she was not a bad person but just your typical Insecure and misunderstood teenager who wanted to make people think she was cool and fit in.
- Karmic Transformation: Isolated, shattered, and disfigured after encounters with and by the effects of the curse, Vanessa loses her status as both queen bee and hot girl of the school for good. She would likely never be popular again and, with her beauty gone, would no longer be one of the prettier girls, some of whom she lorded her looks over and made feel insecure but would now would always be more beautiful.
- Kick the Dog: Vanessa does the kicking, and the dog is usually Allison.
- Love Hotels: Miyuki goes to one with her boyfriend.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Allison eventually flees back to the US, hoping that she'll leave the curse behind. It doesn't work. It results in the curse following her and killing her family, Jake's family, and everyone else who enters the apartment building.
- Room Full of Crazy: Allison's bedroom, after the curse completely and utterly breaks her.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Allison flees back to her parents' home after being subjected to a series of hauntings in Japan. Unfortunately for her, the curse isn't confined to Japan.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Vanessa unleashes the curse to the world when she pressures Allison and Miyuki to enter the Saeki house.
- With Friends Like These...: Allison is cruelly mocked and manipulated by both Vanessa and Miyuki. Vanessa is also extremely mean and scornful towards Miyuki, in spite of their supposed friendship, and Miyuki seems to be pretty afraid of Vanessa, likely only going along with her schemes to appease her.
The Kimble Family (Bill, Trish, Lacey, Jake)
- Bill played by: Christopher CousinsTrish played by: Jennifer BealsLacey played by: Sarah RoemerJake played by: Matthew Knight
A family living in Chicago who become victims of the curse. Jakes survives his first encounter with Kayako in The Grudge 2 and is hospitalized in The Grudge 3 where he gets killed when Kayako breaks nearly every bone in his body.
- Cool Big Sis: Lacey clearly cares deeply for her little brother.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Having every bone twisted and snapped in your body has got to suck.
- Demonic Possession: Bill and Trish come to unknowingly act like Kayako and Takeo, with Bill becoming insanely jealous of anything Trish does without his knowledge. In a reversal, Trish is the one to kill Bill first.
- Determinator: Is one of the rare victims who tries to fight Kayako before she kills him.
- Final Guy: Well, Jake did survive the ending of the second film.
- Frying Pan of Doom: How Trish kills Bill, right in the very first scene of the movie. After burning him with bacon grease.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Lacey.
- Hollywood Drowning: Subverted. Lacey is drowned in the bathtub, but it's a completely silent affair, and Jake is further distracted from hearing anything from the terror of finding his own father's corpse.
- Improbable Infant Survival: Played straight in the second film, where Jake survives the events of the second film. Then he gets slapped with Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome hard, therefore averting this trope in the third film.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Averted. While it's unclear if Lacey believes Jake about what he's been seeing, she doesn't outright dismiss him and lets him sleep in her room.
- Oh, Crap!: "She's here!"
- Pom-Pom Girl: Lacey is a cheerleader, but one of the films nicest characters/
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Jake dies very quickly in the follow-up film, shown being institutionalized then dying not too long after.
- Tears of Fear: After Allison's death at the end of the second film.
- Wicked Stepmother: A tragic subversion due to the effects of the curse. Trish is a very nice woman who knows that Jake will need time to adjust to her presence, and she's willing to work things out with him at his own pace. Then arguments start happening between her and Bill...
Characters in The Grudge 3:
Dr. Francine Sullivan
- Played by: Shawnee Smith
Jake's caseworker and psychologist who begins investigating the curse After Jake is killed.