Karen Davis is a character from The Grudge and The Grudge 2, portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Karen is an American exchange and careworker working in Tokyo, who crosses paths with the grudge curse after replacing a missing nurse (Yoko) that attended an American family's incapacitated old woman, resident of the Saeki house.
Karen appeared in the entirety of The Grudge franchise, with the exception of The Grudge 3.
Karen was born in Pasadena, California, and lived with her mother and sister Aubrey before moving to Japan with her boyfriend, Doug. Karen had seemingly always received attention from Mrs. Davis, which caused jealousy (and grudge) on Aubrey's part. She also demonstrated to be careful to her younger sister, even though her actions usually irritated Aubrey.
Karen, at some point, moved to Japan with her boyfriend Doug as an exchange and started working as a social assistant. She is picked by Alex to replace a missing nurse, Yoko. Yoko attended an incapacitated old woman of an American family, the Williamses, that had just moved into the Saeki house. Karen reluctantly accepts the job and goes to the house. Karen finds the place and instantly has a strange feeling of it. She steps inside and finds Emma, the old lady, seemingly alone and in the middle of a complete mess. Karen attempts to communicate with Emma but fails. After Emma falls asleep, Karen starts to clean and is surprised to find a young boy covered with bruises and bandages inside the wardrobe with his black cat. With him, Karen finds Kayako's diary.
Already scared at this point, Karen then calls her institution to inform them about the boy and manages to communicate with him. He identifies himself as Toshio. She also notices a damaged picture of the boy and presumably of his parents - the face of the mother cut out. A wraith-like figure attracts Karen's attention and she finds an awakened Emma entreating to something. Emma tells Karen that she just wanted her to leave her alone. Confused, Karen attempts to calm Emma down and is surprised by a black, hairy figure that suffocates Emma to death and leaves Karen paralyzed in terror.
Moments later, Alex arrives in the house and finds Emma dead and Karen still in shock. She wakes up in the hospital, reunited with Doug, and is visited by Inspector Nakagawa, who interrogates her about what happened in the night before. Karen tells him about Toshio and the bad feeling the place aroused in her. Nakagawa shows her the damaged picture and Karen confirms that the boy depicted is the same she found last night. Karen is released from the hospital and starts to be frequently haunted by a ghostly figure. She informs Doug of her situation and goes into online search about what happened in the house.Karen is then led to the murders that happened there, where a father killed his wife and son, and consequently himself, after discovering her inner feelings about another man. She reads about an American professor that discovered the woman's corpse in the house, named Peter Kirk, who recently committed suicide. Karen visits his girlfriend Maria and notices a mysterious woman's presence in all of Maria and Peter's photographs - the same woman that was murdered in the house. Karen meets Nakagawa once again and is lears from him about the grudge curse. He also mentions his friends that were killed or taken by it. Karen remarks that both him and her have stepped in the place and he concludes that there is nothing they can do to stop it.
Karen goes home and hears that Doug, following her research, went into the house looking for her. Racing up to the place, Karen is taken to past and sees Peter Kirk instead of Doug. Karen witness Kirk discovering the woman's journal, her obsession for him and her corpse in the attic. Also, through Kirk, Karen sees the murderer's hanging corpse and Toshio playing with it. As Kirk runs out of the place disturbed, Karen is taken back to the present and finds a suffocating Doug.
As she attempts to help him, the murdered woman Kayako then shows up crawling down the stairs, as a ghostly Toshio glares from above. Kayako suffocates Doug to death and approaches to Karen, keeping her from leaving the house. Noticing some gas cans left by Nakagawa, Karen manages to set the house of fire.
Karen was rescued by Eason, a young journalist that was researching the Saeki murders. Before
being taken by the ambulance, she has a last vision/flashback from the Saekis, now as a normal and happy family. Toshio is the only one to notice her before his smiling mother calls him in. At the hospital, however, Kayako continues to lurk and haunt Karen, showing that the curse will never stop.
Days after, Eason attempted to communicate to Karen and introduced himself to her newcomer sister Aubrey, that was sent by her mother to take her back. Karen is surprised by Aubrey and becomes nervous by her presence, repeating and pleading to be released from the hospital. She says she is the only one who can stop "her". Confused, Aubrey apologizes and is taken off by the police. Resisting the curse, Karen managed to escape from her room. She is chased by Kayako to the building's terrace, where she ultimately falls to her death.
As suggested by Vanessa, Karen's attempt to stop the curse became known among people (or at least among American students living in Japan) as a purposeful fire that ended up killing her boyfriend.
Even though Karen seems to have been spoiled by her mother over her younger sister, she seems to be very compassionate and careful, particularly to Aubrey, Doug and Emma.
Notes and triviaEdit
- Karen is the Grudge counterpart of Rika, despite their motivations and fates end up being different; Karen followed her boyfriend to the house, while Rika went after her friend Mariko. Karen resisted to the curse for more than one film, but Rika found her fate in the hands of Takeo, being murdered exactly like Kayako was. Her denouement was transposed to Karen's sister, Aubrey, in the second film.
- Although is never confirmed, the estrangement the Saeki house awakens in Karen suggests she is gifted with sensitivity, thus making Karen the only Grudge character featuring this ability.
- Karen's body lies in the same position Kayako's body lied after she was murdered by Takeo.
- Karen is portrayed by actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, famous for her title role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which also deals with supernatural horror and family drama.
- The scene in which Karen discovers Takeo's hanging corpse is astoundingly similar to a scene of an episode of the first season of Buffy. Also, Buffy also deals with a problematic younger sister, them both also raised by a single mother.
- Amber Tamblyn (Aubrey), Jason Behr (Doug) and Clea DuVall (Jennifer) all guest-starred in Buffy episodes. Sarah Michelle Gellar mentions Behr in the DVD commentary but not DuVall, since the latter portrayed a character that was invisible by the time she confronted Buffy.
- A moment in The Grudge behind the scene footage features Takashi Shimizu praising Gellar for her "performance in fight", even making a fist move.
- While filming the infamous shower scene, Gellar discovered she was allergic to Japanese water, as it caused her skin to itch. "Japanese men and it was very sexy because I had an allergic reaction to the water and so they dressed me in garbage bags from the waist down. [I was in] a little tube top and black hefty garbage bags."
- Gellar does not voice Karen for the Grudge 1.5 animated segment.
- Selma Blair was first considered for her role.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar was critically acclaimed for her portrayal of Karen in The Grudge.