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The Grudge (2020) Review – Wasted Potential of a Reboot

6 min read
The Grudge has good elements but suffers from a rehashed story that doesn't do anything new as well as a wasted potential of what could've been.

The Grudge is the newest reboot/sequel or remake or continuation to the American Grudge franchise based on the very popular Japanese film series, “Ju-On: The Grudge”, created by Takashi Shimizu and the story of The Grudge is after a young mother murders her family in her own house, a single mother and a detective tries to investigate and solve the case. Later, she and the detective discovers that the house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death, so basically it’s the same thing we’ve seen in the American versions and the Japanese versions. Just with an R rating.

Welcome to my first movie review of the decade as well as my first written review for 2020 and let me just say, the idea of a new Grudge movie was a pretty good idea from the start when they announced it back in 2016. It was originally set to come out in 2019, but pushed back to 2020 instead and as far as the Grudge/Ju-On franchise, I really like the first two Ju-On films directed and written by Takashi Shimizu released back in 2002 and 2003. I find them very effective, very creepy and have great stories to tell within them. The crossover where Kayako and Samara fight each other that came out in 2016 was dumb, crazy, silly but also a lot of fun to watch. As far as the American films, I really like the 2004 Grudge movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar, there wasn’t the greatest character development and it did have some restraints due to a PG-13 rating but it was still really good. And the sequels, The Grudge 2 released back in 2006, I saw back and 2011 and it’s easily my favorite of the Grudge trilogy released by Sony and The Grudge 3, which was direct to video was pretty bad.

Also, the fact that Sam Raimi (who produced the original Grudge trilogy) was coming back to produce this one was really cool as well as the cast involved Andrea Risenborough, John Cho, Lin Shaye as well as the fact that it was R were other reasons to be excited, but this new Grudge is not terrible, but not very good.

The biggest problem with the film is the characters and the scares. The characters aren’t really anything to run home about, due to the lack of characterization given for them. You go from one character’s story to the next one to the next one and the story isn’t the problem because I know what’s going on and I was paying attention to the movie. It’s just the way these characters are written are so paper thin and hollow that you don’t feel the emotional impact that you would want to feel when the Grudge demon comes and kills them. I felt like if that the writer and director of the film, Nicholas Pesce, had given more development for these characters, then I’d could’ve forgiven the fact that the scares aren’t the greatest but since Pesce is a talented filmmaker, the writing of the characters should’ve been a lot better. The characters in the original trilogy from 2004-2009 weren’t 100% fleshed out but for some reason, they had more development and motivation to them.T his movie, you have a few sequences that tries to flesh them out, but it’s not very long because it focuses more on the scares more than characters and that’s pretty sad considering the cast involved.

Another big problem here with the film is the scares. The scares when the actual Grudge curse shows up in the two scenes that are here are actually pretty scary and I did find them pretty frightening. But the rest of the scares is just “jump scare galore” and I don’t mind jump scares when they are done right, but when you shove jump scares in the audiences’ face because it’s a horror movie and you need jump scares, it’s not really 100% effective. The point of a scary movie is that you want to be scared as you watch the movie by building up to it and this movie just doesn’t build up to it’s scares as any horror movie should do. When the scares come in any horror movie, you want to feel uncomfortable, uneased, feel like you’re in danger and feel like that the characters are not going to make it out alive. This new Grudge movie just pushes you as hard as it can with jump scares every five minutes to the point where it becomes increasingly annoying.

Not to mention, from every single scene, it’s very, VERY predictable what is going to happen next and I felt like the writing doesn’t really help either in terms of it’s story. This is the exact story we’ve seen in the previous Grudge movies and even the Ju-On films and they don’t even attempt to go for anything different here, which is my biggest disappointment because with a director/writer like Nicholas Pesce and the producer involved and the cast involved, you would think that they’d come up with something more engaging and tell the same story but change some things up for this reboot but sadly, that’s just not the case. I do give the director and filmmakers for trying, but not much to run home about. The film can also become quite a drag something and this is only an hour and 34 minutes long and for some reason, I did find myself quite bored for most of the time. And don’t get me started on the ending of this movie. All I will say, that by the time this movie ended, it feels so uncomplete and predictable.

But with the negatives out of the way, I will give the movie it’s positives. The music by The Newton Brothers, who did an excellent job on the music for Doctor Sleep is actually really effective and really creepy. It doesn’t match the creepiness of Christopher Young’s musical score of the first two American Grudge films, but it’s still very effective.

The acting is really strong despite the bland and lackluster material that they’re given to work with. Andrea Riseborough as the detective Muldoon was really great. I enjoyed John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Demian Bichir and Jacki Weaver in their performances, but Lin Shaye is easily the standout of this movie. There was one scene with her that was shown in the trailers where she’s laughing that I felt creeped out where she has blood all over her hands and face and that did get to me. Pesce’s direction is really well done despite the mediocre script and I thought the cinematography was really well done and it’s a good movie to look at as far as it’s camera work and color palettes by the cinematographer, Zachary Galler.

Also, this is a hard R and it does use it to it’s fully advantage as far as disturbing imagery and blood throughout and for the two scenes in this movie where the Grudge demon shows up, I got creeped out. Problem is, however, the scares aren’t as effective as it should’ve been.

Overall, The Grudge isn’t the worst movie ever made, nor it’s one of the worst movies of the year because we’re only in January and trust me, there’s going to be a lot more terrible movies this year and in this decade I’m going to have to put up with. It does have some good elements but suffers from a rehashed story that doesn’t do anything new as well as a wasted potential of what could’ve been.



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