Directed By: Nicolas Pesce, Written By: Nicolas Pesce, Starring: John Cho, Lin Shaye, Andrea Riseborough & Zoe Fish.
When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage... a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encounter it will be consumed by the need to churn out reboot after reboot of the same old crap…
I should open this review by pointing out that I am very much a fan of the Ju-On series overall. Takashi Shimizu crafted a genuinely creepy tale jam-packed with some truly scary imagery.
The problem is, the more it’s been revised and remodelled, the more watered down it has become, to a point that the 2020 entry in the series is unrecognisable as a Grudge movie.
While I’m not a fan of Americanised remakes of international cinema, I think they did a moderately efficient job with the 2004 film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. That could have something to do with keeping Shimizu onboard as director. The less said about parts 2 and 3, the better.
The film opens promisingly enough. Jumping back to 2004, we meet Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood), who works at the notorious house in Japan. Having witnessed far too many creepy events, she chooses to quit and return to America. She phones another nurse by the name of Yoko, tying it into the 2004 movie nicely. As she prepares to leave, she has a rather troubling encounter with Kayako Saeki.
Don’t get too excited, Grudge fans. This is the only appearance from Kayako. After this, it’s back to the good old USofA where the rest of the movie takes place. This is also where the film shift gears from ‘ok, this could be good,’ to ‘fucking boring.’
And that is this films biggest and most unforgivable sin. It’s incredibly boring. Nothing happens for what seems like hours. We meet various characters who run afoul of the curse after visiting the home, once occupied by nurse Landers, but the curse takes over half the film to manifest itself as anything remotely scary.
As it’s a Ju-On movie, we should have a look at the ghosts. The other entries have all stuck with Kayako, Toshio and his angry father whose name I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. These phantoms were genuinely scary. Kayako, the films main big bad is a truly creepy modern horror antagonist. Her freaky movements and unforgettable stairway descent, coupled with that horrible croaky death rattle earn her a place as an iconic horror villain.
The ghost in this film are so forgettable, I have to wonder why they bothered. There is nothing striking or outstanding about the spooks that inhabit this movie. They move around and jump out at you so fast that you never really get a good look at them.
I haven’t read anything to confirm this suspicion, but I can’t help but speculate if this was originally written as a completely different, standalone movie and some bright spark decided it would be easier to market it if they slapped The Grudge over the title.
Once again, the film is presented in a non-linear fashion. The story flip-flops all over the place, and while that may have worked in the other movies, it just makes this film extremely hard to follow.
As I touched on earlier, the film is incredibly boring. As I watched, I assumed that it was a slow burn, working its way to an exciting payoff. This wasn’t the case, though. The film just ended. There is no payoff, and I felt duped.
Having seen director Nicolas Pesce’s previous film ‘Piercing’ I hoped for much more. Piercing was an odd yet interesting movie that I really liked. The Grudge is neither of those things. It just falls flat and drifts along depressingly towards its anti-climax.
Usually, I can find something of value in even the most mundane of movies. I honestly have nothing to offer here. There are no redeeming qualities to this film. Even the presence of usually dependable actors like Lin Shaye and John Cho can’t save this snore-fest.
If you are unfamiliar with the Ju-On series, here is a list of films to help you find your way in. I genuinely rate all the films listed here, Ju-On: The Curse (2000), Ju-On: The Curse 2 (2000), Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003), The Grudge (2004), Ju-On: White Ghost (2009), Ju-On: Black Ghost (2009), Ju-On: The Beginning of the End (2014), Ju-On: The Final Curse (2015).
The Grudge 2020 is the red-headed stepchild of the series and achieves the remarkable feat of making The Grudge 3 (2009) look like a half-decent picture.
If this is the sign of things to come, then maybe it’s time for Sam Raimi and the folks behind Ghost House pictures to finally give up the ghost.