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Review: The Grudge (2020)

The Grudge (2020)

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Premise: A reboot of the horror series based on the 2003 film Ju-on. A recently widowed detective (Andrea Riseborough) investigates the circumstances of an apparent accident victim and discovers a supernatural curse.

What Works: The Grudge franchise is quite broad, starting with the Japanese film and its sequels and also including the 2004 American remake which inspired its own series of follow ups. The 2020 film is both a sequel to the American half of the franchise but also a soft reboot intended to foster new Grudge installments. The new movie does a few interesting things, namely the way it connects the curse to ageing. A lot of horror films are about young people but characters in 2020’s The Grudge are considerably older and face middle age or the twilight years of their lives. That adds a different flavor to the horror. 

What Doesn’t: Those who have seen the other Grudge movies won’t find anything new here. This reboot is working through many of the same scenarios from the other films but it does them poorly. The new Grudge film is not frightening. There are a few jump scares but most of these are forced and several sequences are clumsily staged. The movie doesn’t have any atmosphere of dread. That is primarily due to the lighting and cinematography. A lot of the film is lit with a sepia tone that just looks ugly instead of scary. There are a lot of ideas and subplots in 2020’s The Grudge and none of them are done very well. The story is ambitious in the way it cuts together past and present and interweaves multiple plotlines. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are never able to pull those pieces together in a way that is meaningful. The transitions between the different storylines come across arbitrary. There is nothing cueing the shifts from one time period to the next and the sequencing of scenes does not appear to have any motive or design. The Grudge comes across as a confusing jumble of random scenes. There are also a number of problems with the timeline and the internal logic of the story. Events that happened a great deal of time apart appear to have occurred almost simultaneously and the filmmakers play fast and loose with the rules of the curse.
DVD extras: Featurettes and deleted scenes.

Bottom Line: The 2020 reboot of The Grudge is an unfrightening slog through images and scenarios that were better and scarier in the earlier films. This is the kind of reboot that exists to exploit a brand name and nothing more.

Episode: #798 (April 26, 2020)