January is here and that means it’s time for another horror movie to kick off the 2020 cinematic season. This year it’s the reboot/remake of “The Grudge” based on the J-horror franchise created by Takashi Shimizu. This one is directed by Nicolas Pesce and the story is virtually centered on the same premise of this curse that grows in the location where a person has tragically died. This curse attaches itself to all who enter, and death is traditionally the outcome. This movie was branded as a ‘twisted new vision’ for the franchise and I apparently misinterpreted the use of ‘new.’ I hoped it meant something along the lines of a fresh direction for the story, but sadly it felt like a new version of the same film we have seen before because it was lacking a lot of creative ambition.
I went into this film with an open mind. I really liked “Ju-On” from 2002 and while the ’04 film was a miss for me, there was still some moderate potential for this new movie given the cast on paper looked solid. Andrea Riseborough, John Cho, Demián Bichir and Lin Shaye are all great actors. I hoped this would result in a collection of characters I could invest in but that wasn’t the case. The effort in the performances was present, but the material they had to work with failed them. Like many of the other Grudge movies this was told in a non-linear style as it explores three separate stories of those crossing this deadly curse. It felt disjointed and didn’t allow enough time to spend with these characters to really care about them at all. They all have an issue in their life that is presented but not explored and without caring about the characters it results in a movie that has many lulls to the point of being boring.
Something that I loved with the ’02 film was the atmosphere it created. It was a movie that lured you into it and left room for interpretation. This film felt like it was going through the motions. The pacing is steady, but it lacks mystery and tension. It’s a movie that comes at you and forces you to take things at face value because of exposition and it hinders the intrigue of seeing where the players in the story will go. Because we already know the outcome. There’s also a studio gloss to the visual appeal that feels like so many other horror movies we have seen over the years and it was disappointing. The source-material is already in place. All it needs is a modest infusion of story-telling, with character-arcs that can appeal to the viewer. Toss in some cleverly crafted horror sequences and you have a solid reboot.
This one didn’t pull that off unfortunately. It’s heavily reliant on jump-scares and more so, scares we have seen done time and time again. The bright spot for me was the performance of Lin Shaye. I enjoyed the creep-factor she brought to the role and she captured my attention with each scene. And like I said, none of the performances were bad, but they could only do some much with thin writing and development. I hoped for something demented and twisted as billed. But all it ended up being was another remake/reboot being given the Hollywood assembly line treatment with a string of uninspired scare-attempts. It tries to give the impression of being intense and climactic, but it ended up feeling like a movie that had no purpose, and sadly no looming tension to escape into either.