“The Grudge” is out … again. This new adaptation of Takashi Shimizu’s “Ju-On: The Grudge,” written and directed by Nicolas Pesces, creator of “The Eyes of My Mother” and “Piercing,” tries to give a modern twist on a drawn-out franchise, but with little success.
The story begins with Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) as she leaves Japan and heads back to Cross Rivers, Pennsylvania. Her new caretaking job in the house of Kayako Saeki, the iconic ghost associated with “The Grudge,” has made her uneasy and ready to leave. However, as she walks out, Saeki’s hand grabs her and passes down the curse to Fiona. Flash-forward two years later and there’s a new detective in town. Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) is a widowed mother who is moving to get a fresh start with her son after her husband died of cancer. Her first investigation is looking into how Lorny Moody (Jacki Weaver), a “compassionate presence” for those who wish for assisted suicides, died. However, once the other detectives find out that she was connected to Fiona’s murder house, they drop the case — except Muldoon. She continues to investigate the murder house and eventually gets cursed as well.
I’ll save you the anticipation. If you were waiting for Kayako Saeki to make more of an appearance, you are out of luck. The only time Saeki makes an appearance was when she grabbed Fiona’s leg in the beginning. Pesces apparently thought that making a reboot without the iconic character attached to it would be wise. In his defense, it could have worked had the new ghosts been memorable. But while Saeki was known as a creepy ghost, whose appearance could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, Pesces’ ghosts play peekaboo with Muldoon. The movie is littered with jump scares, which often act as alarms to keep you awake. As for the plot itself, it bombards you with cliches. When you think something bad is about to happen, you can bet Pesces will draw the moment out with cliche scary music and jump-cuts between the person and what they are scared of. Even without the jump scares, the plot has predictable moments scattered around to progress the story. It’s one thing to add some cliches for the sake of convenience, but when you make the whole movie about them, the tension is lost when the audience can see the twist coming. Even if you’re not a horror movie enthusiast, you’re likely to know what will happen next.
It’s quite a shame that the writing of this film was terribly executed since it distracts from the actors. Horror film veterans were casted, including Demian Bichir (“The Nun”) and Lin Shaye (the “Insidious” series). Though Bichir was given a small role, her performance was remarkable. Her acting skills in this movie had me more scared of her than the ghosts itself. Another actor who deserves some recognition is John Cho, a relatively new actor to the horror film realm that didn’t fall short to the veterans. There is one scene in the movie where he is confronted with one of the ghosts without him knowing, but as an audience member, it has you on the edge of your seat. All of their performances felt believable and made you feel like you were actually there and not sitting in a movie theater. Their performances were captivating and any of their stories could have been the whole movie in itself, but sadly, the characters were painted more as bodies for the kill count instead of actually fleshed out individuals. The characters themselves were written badly with one trait personalities and static character development. I thought the time they cut from their backstories before they became ghosts may have been used to better improve the plot or at least make the ending memorable. I was wrong. The ending leaves you asking for more, or at the very least for the time you wasted on the movie back. It is one of Pesces’ biggest mistakes. As he tried to add on to the body count, he was left to juggle five separate storylines with little success.
If Hollywood thought that Pesces could make a good adaptation of this beloved franchise, then this blockbuster flop shows they were wrong. It would have been better if the film was a straight to DVD movie. As a stand-alone film, 2020’s “The Grudge” is a boring horror film, but as a part of a beloved franchise, it’s just a disappointment.
Verdict: Skip the movie. Nothing good comes out of seeing this. It is just another money grab movie of the classic “The Grudge” sequel. A good cast can’t save the badly written plot.