The Grudge (2020) Review!!

Synopsis – A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

My Take – Most of us may remember how nearly a decade ago, Japanese horror (J-horror) swept through the world, leading to an influx of remake productions for the English speaking audiences. While most of this film eventually failed to find resonance with the audience, two remakes namely, filmmaker Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On remade as The Grudge and Ringu remade as The Ring, found wider acceptance and massive box office success.

While J- Cinema, has continued to actively produce fresher entries throughout the decade, with one of the latest even going as far as pitting both the antagonists against each other in the 2016 film, Sadako vs. Kayako. However, their American counterparts, stopped as soon as the quality of the sequels meandered and diminishing returns kicked in.

While The Ring series attempted a comeback into the form of the 2017 atrocity known as Rings, a new sequel/reboot of the 2004 remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is also here, suggesting a change of pace. Helmed by Nicolas Pesce, an interesting up-and-coming indie director, an all-star cast, a change in setting thus becoming the first of the entire franchise to take place solely in America (although it does briefly connect in a prologue to the Japanese house in which this whole mythology started), and most importantly an upgraded R-rating, all suggesting a possibly good spooky tale fans of the genre deserved. However, just good ideas always don’t translate well on the screen.

Honestly, I was excited about this new film because of the stellar cast attached, and due to my memory of the original remake being of a film carrying a unique scary atmosphere and a vengeful spirit that never lets go. Yet, sadly the end result is disappointing, maybe not as bad as Rings, but still quite forgettable.

Director Nicolas Pesce’s film is simply just missing the necessary scares, lacks a good story, and worse, despite being a mainstream horror film, is often quite boring.

The film of course is based on the idea that when someone dies in the throes of rage, their anger lives on and infects everyone who comes in contact with it. But this time around, we’re no longer dealing with the spirits, Kayako and Toshio, but a new set of ghouls that haunt anyone who dare step foot in their home.

However, it does contain the familiar the non-linear narrative of the previous films that jumps back-and forth between time periods. With the main story following Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough), who after the death of her husband, has moved into a small town in Pennsylvania with her young son, Burke (John J. Hansen). However, her troubles begin when she and her new partner Detective Goodman (Demian Bichir) discover the decomposed body of Lorna Moody (Jacki Weaver) in a car in the middle of the woods, which leads her to 44 Reyburn Drive, a house currently occupied by an elderly couple William (Frankie Faison) and Faith (Lin Shaye).

While Goodman refuses to take the case further as he believes the residence is cursed and effected his previous partner Detective Wilson (William Sadler), who was investigating the deaths of its previous owners, Fiona (Tara Westwood), her husband Sam (David Lawrence Brown) and her daughter Melinda (Zoe Fish), Muldoon is determined to dig further. As her investigation begins to materialize with possible links even to real estate agents and expecting parents Peter (John Cho) and Nina (Betty Gilpin), Muldoon begins to feel a troubling presence in her life as well.

Yes, despite being moved entirely to the America, the film does have some basic connections to director Shimizu’s original and his 2004 American remake, and is also possibly running simultaneously even with the events of the 2006 sequel. While the original wasn’t exactly delicate in its plotting, this new incarnation is strikingly clumsy in its narrative presentation.

Combined with often incomprehensible editing that flip-flops randomly between plots and years, the film ends up being deadly dull. What’s worse is that despite throwing a whole barrage of subplots and gruesome imagery at the viewer, the film constantly comes up short at providing anything chilling, despite all the behind-the-scenes talent on hand like writer/director Nicolas Pesce has helmed acclaimed indie titles like Piercing and producer Sam Raimi who has had a solid track record.

Rather than crafting intricate scare sequences, made to toy with audience expectations, the film instead strings out its jolts in expected fashion. The ghost that’s popping out at you is a rather creepy figure and you can’t help but jump at whatever is in frame, but director Pesce never builds up enough atmosphere to make the creepiness impactful.

The instances where director Pesce gets to infuse a scene here or there with a real sense of grief or foreboding are constantly undercut by the cheap shock tactics like the tired trope of something happening behind the characters that they can’t see. Then they turn around and it’s gone. That trick is good for a scare maybe once. However, nearly every scare uses that setup. It’s almost as if he didn’t feel there weren’t enough moments of horror, so he used them to fill the gaps. The attempts at recreating iconic sequences from the original including the infamous shower scene and the security camera sequence are done slavishly with no new ideas or perspective.

The script even lacks in delivering interesting characters as well. Detective Muldoon, for example, just wanders around listening to audiotapes and evading ghosts rather than having any kind of personal connection to the paranormal antics happening around her. Her detective work ends up being incidental to the overall plot, and the fact that she and other principal characters share a common thread of grappling with deceased loved ones ends up going nowhere.

Major characters will disappear from the film for large amounts of time, only to show back up for maybe two more minutes before they are killed off. Character depth is completely dropped once the plot kicks into gear.

Despite an all-star cast, the performances are quite average. Andrea Riseborough and Demian Bichir are fine, while John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, Tara Westwood and Jacki Weaver deliver strong work, respectively, but are largely wasted. However, the true star of the show is horror-veteran Lin Shaye, completely hamming it up, giving the films best performance. On the whole, ‘The Grudge’ is yet another horror reboot which delivers minimum scares and wastes its talented cast.

Directed – Nicolas Pesce

Starring – Tara Westwood, Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir

Rated – R

Run Time – 93 minutes

One response to “The Grudge (2020) Review!!

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Worst Hollywood Films of 2020 – A MovizArk Take!!! | Welcome to Moviz Ark!·

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