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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: The Grudge 2020

Director: Nicholas Pesce
Screenplay: Nicholas Pesce
Year: 2020

The world of horror starts this 2020 with a new version of “The Grudge”, a movie based on a previous version released in 2004, that itself is based on the Japanese version “Ju-On: The Grudge” released in 2002 that itself is a sequel of “Ju-On: The Curse”, released in the year 2000. Sin 1998 with “Ringu” and “Katsumi”, this last one the title that gave way to the Ju-On Japanese franchise, the image of the ghost of a woman with long dark hair has traumatized audiences around the world. However, this new version in 2020 opts for having another type of ghost with the intention of giving a different vision to the popular franchise. 

A detective investigates several cases in which violent deaths had taken place in a house. The house is haunted by a powerful curse that sticks to the people that get inside it and makes them see disturbing visions of the ghosts that follow them. While the detective investigates the root of the different events, her life is in danger because of the curse. 

Without any intention of refraining from how I feel about this movie, I can say that with every new version of this movie, the budget and the quality go in opposite directions. What made “Ju-On: The Grudge” popular is that it follows the steps of “Ringu” in crafting a chilling style of cinema when the horror genre had lost its focus in virtue of horror comedies and teen horror movies. Curiously, “Ringu” and its subsequent versions “The Ring” and “Rings” suffer from the same quality issue in every new version.

The director and screenwriter Nicholas Pesce ("The Eyes of My Mother") in this new version of “The Grudge” uses a non-linear narrative where he presents three stories in three different timelines that intertwine in some moments. The non-linear narrative style has as many virtues as it has flaws and is up to the viewer’s criteria if this is something enjoyable or not. On the one side, it forces the viewer in keeping focused on the plot (something necessary with the slow rhythm of this movie), and on the other side characters disappear from the screen for a long time and it can be challenging to fall again in the dynamics of what’s going on in the plot.

The main issues of this movie lie in the direction and script from Pesce, who seems like he decided not to study the previous versions before making his own. This version took everything that characterized and made the previous ones great and bastardizes them into a generic US horror film. At no point does it feels like the idea of respecting the previous ones was taken seriously, which undoubtedly will be the comparison point if you use its name, and is only loosely based on its characters and mythos, although this last one also suffered being distorted.

It is a shame that the script has so many plot holes and lack of comprehension because the cast of “The Grudge” does a great job. The plot pivots around the discoveries made by detective Muldoon (Andre Riseborough; “Mandy”) about a house in which violent events have taken place and these are the different stories we get to see, spearheaded by Tara Westwood (“Hell Girl”), John Cho (“The Twilight Zone”), and Frankie Faison (“Hannibal”). The whole cast does a great job, but who stands out is horror legend Lin Shaye (“Insidious”; “Room For Rent”; “A Nightmare On Elm Street”) with a disturbing interpretation, who curiously also participates in the most violent moments of the movie.

The influence of Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”) as a producer in this movie, even when it doesn't save it from being an uninspired and boring story, is palpable on the gore. The R classification is well deserved only with these scenes, where we see from mutilations to suicides, much of them with clarity and details. The gore and the acting are the only weapons in favor that "The Grudge" has to avoid being a complete disaster.

The fact that "The Grudge" was scheduled to be released in January, a month where it is known that horror movies that are not expected to be successful are released, was already advice of the possible disaster this movie could be, which is confirmed once watched. The ghosts shown here are more reminiscent of zombies than of the frightening Kayako, throwing away one of the characteristics that popularized this franchise in their Japanese and US versions. "The Grudge" only uses the name of its predecessors and its mythos to market a movie that has little to do with the previous ones, that lacks inspiration, and is nothing more than another horror movie with the jump scare after jump scare formula that is as predictable as its plot.

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