THE GRUDGE (2020) – Film Review

After a young mother murders her family in her own house, a single mother and detective tries to investigate and solve the case. Later, she discovers the house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

Well folks, here we are not only in a brand new year but in a brand new decade as well. It genuinely seems hard to believe that the 2020s are finally here, but alas they are. There’s only one negative thing that comes with every new year and every January and particular – we get a bunch of bad horror films releasing. Last January, we had the massively disappointing Escape Room, and the year before that, we had Insidious: The Last Key.

But, if I am going to be completely honest with you, something about Nicolas Pesce’s latest feature, a new reboot of The Grudge, intrigued me. Pesce is a filmmaker that I greatly admire. The Eyes of My Mother, his 2016 feature is one of incredible originality and a terrific movie overall. His direction and writing is usually quite strong, so when I heard that he was going to be directing this movie, my excitement increased a little bit.

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Demián Bichir as Detective Goodman in The Grudge (2020).

Another reason why I was cautiously optimistic here was because of the cast. The cast is incredibly impressive with stars such as John Cho, Lin Shaye, and Andrea Riseborough as the leads, which seemed like a win for me. Everything about The Grudge in terms of a technical aspect seemed like a lock.

A great cast, terrific director, good cinematographer, etc. Which is why it seemed so surprising to me that The Grudge was getting a January release. I honestly thought this was going to be one of the rare times that a January film was not too bad, but boy was I wrong. The Grudge is not only a disastrous way to start off the new year in cinema, but it may end up being one of the worst movies of the year by the time December comes.

Virtually every element of this film fails on every level. Let’s start with the characters, though. In the 2004 American reboot of The Grudge, the characters, while not terrifically strong in any regard, were ones that I could get behind at times. I understood their motivations and I knew what they were after and I got to know a little bit about them as the story progressed. In Pesce’s version, the characters are painfully dull and underdeveloped. There is maybe only one or two sequences here in which he cares to flesh out the characters, and even still, the scenes that we do get are frustratingly quick. It seems like the filmmakers were worried to take a breather in its scares department to focus on the human element which was such a shame.

If any one of these characters were to die in the first fifteen minutes of the film, I would not have cared one bit, because we are never given any reason to care. They feel like the exact definition of disposable horror movie characters. They’re only in the film to eventually be killed off in some way, and you know it is coming. That’s another thing about The Grudge I despised; the scares and its overall predictability.

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Junko Bailey as Kayako Saeki in The Grudge (2020).

Those that have been following me and my reviews for many years know by now that there are few things I hate more in a horror film than jump scares. They have never been scary. There is a stark difference between being scared and startled. Jump scares can be startling. They can take you off guard for a brief moment or two, but after that initial shock, you no longer feel terror, because you have been released. A loud sound effect accompanied with a weird image on screen can be startling. Being scared is feeling downright uncomfortable, uneasy even. You feel like you may literally be in danger, and you feel like you will never be released from the tension the filmmaker is gripping you with. The Grudge is not scary. It can be startling, which to me, is annoying. It seemed as if there was a jump scare every other minute in this movie and after a while, it was insanely predictable as to when a jump scare would happen.

Even in terms of a story The Grudge has nothing new to offer either. This is the exact same story that we have been told time and time again with nothing exciting to change things up present here. In fact, I am completely confused as to how this movie was approved, as it feels in every way, like the most generic horror film that the filmmakers could have possibly made. I admire and respect the effort, but it just did not work.

Now without spoilers of course, I have to briefly touch upon the ending. It is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the worst endings in cinema in several years. An ending that feels so unearned and comes completely out of field field and will leave fans of the film beforehand, no longer fans by the time the credits roll.

Don’t get me wrong though, this is not one of the worst films ever made or anything. There are much worse films out there, but this is still really bad. That being said, there are some things about this movie that are not too bad, so let’s talk about those.

The acting some of the cast is actually quite strong during certain moments. For example, Andrea Riseborough as Detective Muldoon was one that, at first, I was not sure how to feel about her acting. But after a while, I found myself thinking that she was actually quite good. But by far the best actor here is Lin Shaye as Mrs. Matheson, who does her best with the little screen time that she is given. While still being good in the film, I have to admit that there was one scene in particular that involves Shaye that I thought was extremely cringe-worthy, and it even had people in my theatre laughing out loud, which was not at all the intention. Not only was I laughing at this scene, but I found myself laughing at a large portion of the film, and this film is not supposed to be humorous whatsoever, but it just was.

Speaking of Mrs. Matheson, and I know this is just a silly nitpick but I still feel the need to bring it up, I challenge you to count how many times her name is spoken in the film. I guarantee you it is at least thirty times or more, and after I while, it actually became hilarious to listen to.

The Grudge is a massive disappointment and a drastically dull horror film that has a recycled story, a wasted cast, and weak scares.

Overall Grade: D

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violence and bloody images, terror and some language

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing

Running Time: 94 minutes

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