The Grudge movie review: Nicolas Pesce can do only so much to revive a franchise that never had any potential

The true horror while watching The Grudge is seeing a long dead franchise return as a zombie to offer a joke of a horror movie.

Anshu Lal January 04, 2020 10:53:57 IST

1.5/5

It says a lot when the trailer of The Grudge boasts the movie is ‘from producers of Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead’ instead of using the actual franchise it is based on as a selling point.

The Grudge movie review Nicolas Pesce can do only so much to revive a franchise that never had any potential

A still from The Grudge. YouTube

Director Nicolas Pesce’s The Grudge is a perfect example of why some franchises, which died a long time ago, should not be revived. The movie is, in fact, a reboot of a remake of Takashi Shimizu’s popular Japanese horror film Ju-On: The Grudge, which suffers from a highly incoherent narrative. Its 2004 American remake The Grudge was an even bigger disappointment, and spawned a mechanical horror movie franchise which never had any potential apart from being an obvious cash cow.

Maybe that is why producer Sam Raimi thought the world needed yet another The Grudge movie. Initially, the movie was supposed to start a storyline completely different from the 2004 remake (which may have been a better idea). But the filmmakers eventually chose to adopt the same obsolete storytelling style and even the scares of the 2004 movie, making Pesce’s The Grudge one of the most mundane and predictable horror movies made in recent times.

Pesce’s The Grudge is even set in 2004, and the events in the movie take place simultaneously with those shown in the American remake. The movie begins with a woman leaving the infamous Saeki residence in Japan and returning to her home back in the US, as a result of which she unknowingly spreads an evil curse to another place. After the woman murders her family owing to the same curse, the protagonist Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) starts investigating the case, and slowly discovers the horrific consequences of entering any place affected by the curse.

Except those consequences are scary only for the characters in the movie. For the viewers, the so-called horror in The Grudge exists almost entirely in a never-ending series of morbid jump scares. The film makes no attempt to reinvent the same old tricks used by the previous films intended to scare the audience.

As a result, when the hairy and moist ghosts or the overused child spirits appear on screen during the most critical moments in the movie, viewers can see them coming a mile away. The ghastly evil creatures in The Grudge will scare one no more than the momentary shock of having someone shout ‘Boo!’ in the dark.

Riseborough, however, has played her part with commitment. When her character’s story is not being interrupted by the poorly executed non-linear structure of the film, Riseborough manages to hold the audience’s attention with her intense and morose portrayal of a detective caught between losing her husband to cancer and investigating a case with supernatural elements. If nothing else, the film will really make the viewers root for Detective Muldoon.

John Cho and Betty Gilpin also display their talents as they depict a distraught couple dealing with a pregnancy developing complications. It is an interesting sub-plot, but one that definitely does not mix well with the overall J-horror focus. Perhaps the strangest character in the movie is Detective Goodman (Demián Bichir), whose only job in the film is to waltz on screen occasionally, and offer his comments and exposition.

It is even more disappointing The Grudge is directed by Pesce, whose directorial debut in 2016 with the black-and-white The Eyes of My Mother, is an eerily brilliant reimagining of horror and no less a milestone in redefining horror than the likes of Get Out, Don’t Breathe or A Quiet Place.

Pesce does succeed in re-using his somber, sullen directorial style seen in The Eyes of My Mother to create an appropriate atmosphere of hopelessness and misery in The Grudge. And he also manages to make the non-linear structure slightly clearer than the previous movies in the franchise. But there is only so much one can do to revive a franchise which never really had an appeal.

The true horror while watching The Grudge is seeing a long dead franchise return as a zombie to offer a joke of a horror movie.

Rating: *1/2

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