‘I can still hear them…’
The Grudge franchise is a weird one. Spanning 10 films across three timelines, two of which take place in Japan, and the third being an American/Japan hybrid, the series is notable for being box office gold whilst earning nothing but ire and scorn from both audiences and critics alike. You’ll be hard pushed to find anyone that has a good word to say about the Grudge franchise, despite its evergreen success. This wildly unnecessary reboot won’t change anyone’s mind.
A cursed house haunts a rotating cast of unfortunates who all fall victim to a series of vengeful ghosts. Detectives Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) and Goodman (Demian Bichir) struggle with the demons of their past, a young couple (John Cho & Betty Gilpin) attempt to overcome a personal tragedy, and an aging marriage turns sour when the elderly wife (Lin Shaye) goes mad.
This vignettes rumble past with an occasional passing relevance to each other in a film that feels almost like an anthology rather than a coherent story. We don’t spend enough time with any one character to become emotionally invested in them, particularly as the dialogue is both stunted and predictable. The plot is paper thin, the lighting too dark and the whole first half of the movie drowns under a sea of exposition. And yet…
And yet when writer/director Nicolas Pesce lets loose, he is capable of some darkly inventive visual moments. The gore is piled on and many of the death scenes are deliriously nasty and gratuitous. If that sounds unbearable then there really is nothing in this film for you. I enjoyed these grim tableaus, and they eventually tie in to a surprisingly satisfying ending. The last 20 minutes recalls Sinister in its most nightmarish moments, and this ensures that The Grudge at least manages to leave a lasting impact.
Ultimately, the journey is not worthy of the destination, and the po faced seriousness of the whole thing left me longing for something as fun as the recently reviewed Child’s Play remake. Perhaps more than any other film viewed for this project, this one is for horror aficionados only. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.