“The Grudge” stars Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, and Jacki Weaver. Released on January 3, 2020, the film is about a detective who discovers that a suburban house is cursed.
The film is written and directed by Nicolas Pesce, who also worked on “The Eyes of My Mother” and “Piercing”. It is the fourth installment in the “Grudge” film series. A new decade is finally upon us, and look what it brought along. Another horror film for me to look at during the wintery days of January. I wasn’t really expecting this one to get this type of treatment, but then again, we are living in a world where Hollywood likes to reintroduce their beloved franchises to a new generation of moviegoers, especially the horror ones. The American remake of Takashi Shimizu’s “Ju-On: The Grudge” and its follow-ups weren’t exactly critical hits when they were released more than a decade ago, but their box office totals said otherwise because people like scary movies that involve the supernatural. After a decade-long break from the franchise, Hollywood is ready to revisit this extremely creepy film series in hopes of gaining some new followers…or messing it up depending on your perspective. I haven’t seen any of the films before the “reboot”, so as always, I will be looking at it as its own film without comparing it to the previous installments. With that said, let’s see if this curse is worth getting. Wish me luck.
The story is set during and after the events of the 2004 American remake and its follow-ups, where a rookie detective (Riseborough) is assigned to investigate the murders that happened mysteriously. She then comes across a house that just happened to be the cause of the murders. Why? Because, unsurprisingly, it holds a deadly supernatural curse that latches onto those who enter the house and eventually kills them. With the curse now affecting her, the detective will have to race against time to solve the case and find a way to dispel it for good. Similar to the first two installments, the film is told in a non-linear narrative, showcasing the storylines that involve different characters that fell victim to the curse, such as real estate agent Peter Spencer (Cho) and the Mathesons, which I thought was fine as it gives the audience a clear explanation as to how they met their demises. The only difference between this film and the first two “Grudge" films is its rating. With its strict R rating, “The Grudge” promised to be more grittier, more realistic, and more scarier than the American remake, which earned itself a PG-13 rating. However, it didn’t promise that it’s going to be a frightening good time at the theater. Just because a film is more violent compared to its predecessors, it doesn’t always automatically make it as good as or better than the other installments in that film's franchise. The 2020 version of “The Grudge” marks another example of that unfortunate situation. To its credit, the film offered a respectable atmospheric style that matches its intended tone quite well. It’s dark, it’s depressing, and it’s creepy enough to give certain people goosebumps. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for me to revisit this experience in the near future. Not only was it the most dullest horror film I’ve ever seen, but it is also another scare-fest that was desperate to get some screams from its audience. Even with the non-linear narrative, the plot still didn’t have a lot of elements to take advantage of in order to make its slow-burning story engaging, frightening, and entertaining, especially the characters and the curse. It did well in letting the newcomers know what they’re getting themselves into in the first 10 minutes, but after that, it didn’t do that much else to maintain their interest. It’s a simple and straightforward horror film that took the pages from the book of horror cliches and splattered them onto its narrative. While Nicolas Pesce has a knack for atmospheric filmmaking, his storytelling outside of that wasn’t something to be proud of as he failed to make these characters convincing enough to make me hope for their survival. The actors and their performances weren’t exactly that memorable either despite the noticeable efforts made by Riseborough and Cho as Detective Muldoon and Peter Spencer respectively. As for the scares, which are the main sources of the horror franchise, they’re clearly just jump scares and icky images like the zombie-like creatures and the main ghost of the franchise, Kayako Saeki (played by Junko Bailey in this film), and they’re not that impressive. It had a couple of heart-pounding moments, but aside from that, the overall scares had little to no spark to make them as nightmarish and disturbing as the supernatural ghosts. They’re honestly more disgusting than unsettling because of the way the ghosts look. I’m scared of certain things in life, and supernatural curses are not one of them. There were also a couple of scenes near the end that made me unintentionally laugh, which further proves my explanation as to why this film did not scare me at all.
Overall, “The Grudge” is the type of curse that you want to stay away from. To no one’s surprise, including mine, the film is not only another bland and watered-down horror film that lacks an engaging narrative and some nightmarish frights, but it is also another continuation (or reboot) of a specific franchise that fails to justify its own existence. With its dull pacing, an uninteresting storyline, mediocre characters, a so-so cast, and a lot of weak scares, the 2020 version proves that there are certain franchises (including the horror ones) that should be left alone. If you’re interested in checking out this type of franchise, this film isn’t the best way to start. Not the best way for me to start off the new year as usual, but never fear, my fellow readers, we still have a lot more films to get to before all is said and done. Hopefully they’ll all be better than this.