The Grudge (2020)
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Writers: Nicolas Pesce and Jeff Buhler
Starring: Andrea Risenborough, Demian Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, and Jacki Weaver
Plot: Spirits haunt a policewoman after she enters a cursed house with a violent past.
Someday this version of The Grudge will find itself playing in front of a sleepover of teenage girls who’ve never experienced a horror film. It’ll knock the socks off of that particular audience. But, anyone who’s seen even one horror flick before will leave mostly unimpressed.
See? This might be the most cliched modern horror film I’ve ever seen. The design of the ghosts is radically different than that of the previous Grudge movies. But, not in a good way. Gone is the effective pale faced screaming children. In their stead? Cliched zombie looking creeps. Honestly, the one guy reminded me of the villain from the first Men in Black. It’s not even remotely scary.
That could be forgiven though if the scares were good. They’re not. You know how, in most modern day scary movies, they set up a pretty obvious scare that’s meant to be a red herring? Then, the actual scare comes from a completely different direction? Because they know what you’re expecting and want to subvert those expectations? This Grudge 2020 just goes “nah” and hits you with exactly the scare you were expecting. I thought it was clever at first but then it happens over and over and over again. It feels like going through a haunted house for the third time. You know where all of the scares are going to be. Hell, John Cho’s character literally experiences three iconic scares from the first American remake. I get paying homage to the original but you can’t just do the same jump scares beat for beat. I assumed this was targeted at fans of the franchise. They’ve already seen that. It’s not scary the second time. It really does feel like it was set up to be someone’s first horror film. And, like I said, it may work for that person but not for anyone even remotely familiar with the genre. So, good job, movie. At best you’re scaring like 5% of your target audience.
The plot is waaaaay too complicated too. I get that the director probably wanted to tell this epic sprawling story about how this horror is passed from person to person and it can never be stopped and all that. And, on a certain level, it works. It really does feel large scale while your in it to a fault. Jumping back and forth in time, from character to character, plot to plot, makes it kind of hard to follow. By the end, I couldn’t keep track of how each person got the curse or what happened to who or when. It’s kind of just a jumbled mess of jump scare setups. Not to mention, the movie thinks it’s more clever than it is too. It sets itself up as a detective story. But, that’s not really what we’re here for. We want to see ghosts. And, we already know (kind of) where each of these stories is going. I could just feel this movie setting up “ah ha!” moments but instead I was mostly just left shrugging. Like, so, now I know why the killer ghost is a killer. What does that add to the story?
I can’t leave this review though without praising Lin Shaye. She has found her niche in the horror genre over the past couple of years and she again KILLS IT here. Even when she isn’t given a lot to do, she finds a way to be effective, scary and tragic. She made her arc maybe the only entertaining one in the flick. She is a horror icon. I rolled my eyes when I saw she was in this, but I have no problem with her being typecast-ed if she’s ok with it. Judging from how much fun it always looks like she has too, I’m guessing she’s ok with it.
TL;DR: The Grudge is a movie so full of cliches, it’s almost impossible for it to scare you.
Score: 3/10 (Awful)