The Grudge was never a horror series that really resonated with me. I love horror, but even the original Japanese Grudge film (Ju-On) didn't scare or thrill me enough for me to understand why there are over 10 of them when including the American with the Japanese films. Well, it's been long enough since the last film in the series (3 in 2009 which went straight to DVD), so since Hollywood has run out of ideas, here's a semi-reboot, semi-sequel January horror garbage simply called "The Grudge." If it's any consolation, at least it's not the worst January horror film I've ever seen. Yeah… I'm trying really hard for this intro to not sound too negative.
I haven't seen director Nicolas Pesce's previous work, but I've heard terrific things about The Eyes of My Mother and was interested to see what he'd do with an R-rated Grudge film. What he did was bore the living hell out of me for most of the 90-minute runtime. I will give Pesce credit in one aspect though, and that is the film is suitably grimy and depressing in visuals and tone. The jumbled up story that tells the tale of three different parties that encountered the Ju-On curse wasn't nearly as confusing as it could've been. It's just a shame it's so slow in pacing that it nearly killed the small number of positives that I have.
It's also a shame I never got a distinct style from Pesce, and the use of the same non-linear style of storytelling like previous Grudge films only helped make it feel like I was watching the same old stuff just with way more blood and less broken neck, long-haired ghost girl. To its credit though, it has just as many jumpscares as the previous American ones, so at least they didn't up the ante there.
The story follows three groups of characters to varying degrees. The main one follows Detective Muldoon who's investigating a sudden appearance of a dead body in a car which leads her to the evil Ju-On curse, where scary things start happening… loudly and very generically. The other two parties don't matter because they're there just to give us a bigger body count, so when you leave the theater, you can at least say "a bunch of people died in bloody ways!" as you go to your car and immediately forget you saw a movie that night. I'll again give some kudos to the characters not being super annoying and even somewhat likable at times, but they are incredibly underdeveloped.
An example would be a married couple who are expecting but learn that their child will be born with ALD. They cry and learn to accept this sad fact and… that's it! We don't know them as people or as a couple. We only know that when they die it'll be super sad because of something they brought up 10 minutes ago. It's there just to make the villain look even more villainous. Also, the rules of the curse and how it affects people are very inconsistent and are always changing. At times the ghosts can do whatever they please, and at other times they can't at all.
I know I'm nitpicking, but when the whole movie is banking on the blood and the jumpscares, then you better get the thing causing both correct! It also doesn't help that the movie completely fails to deliver even a somewhat satisfying conclusion. I won't spoil it, but it's SO poorly done and anti-climactic that it had me rolling my eyes so hard and fast that they almost flew out of my skull. Okay, I'm done. Bad story. Moving on.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I'm actually surprised that the acting was this decent in such a lame, half baked horror slapdash like this. Andrea Riseborough plays Detective Muldoon, and she's quite good in most movies; this is no exception. She's a professional and doesn't let a bad script get in her way. Her character, on the other hand, is just as underdeveloped as pretty much every other one in this film. Tell me if you've heard this one before!!! The main character's spouse passed away recently and hasn't quite moved on yet and has to take care of their young child while also dealing with a supernatural entity trying to kill them and their child. I've used this word a lot so far, but the only word I can really give the characters in this film is "generic," but the acting almost makes me forgive the paper-thin writing. The supporting, which includes terrific actors like John Cho, Demian Bichir, William Sadler, the always wonderful Lin Shaye, Betty Gilpin, and Jacki Weaver, are all squanders with little to do besides either die or… well… that's about it, really. I'll give it credit though for the amount of talent that was on the screen.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I'm not kidding when I say I don't remember anything about the score. All I know is when the obvious jumpscare was coming after about four minutes of a character slowly walking around, I braced myself for the loud noise accompanying the "scare," and then I rolled my eyes some more. I'm seriously trying to remember anything about the music but I'm at a loss. I guess that says it all right there.
Like I said before, I do appreciate the grimy and disturbing look the movie has. It's suitably dark and actually has a bit of atmosphere to it. I also commend the use of practical effects for some of the blood and gore in the film. There’s some truly disturbing visuals here and there that were also effective mood setters. Sadly, that's the last I can say positively here because whenever this movie devolves to ghosts jumping out at the screen, which is most of the last act, the makeup and uses of CGI are pretty bad. The look of the ghosts is incredibly generic with pale faces, long hair, dark eyes, etc. I know it's The Grudge, but could we please do something a bit different here? It's been done so many times before in other movies besides the Grudge films. The CGI is the typical low budget horror movie type that looks dated and very obvious and completely takes you out of the movie. Luckily for me, I was already taken out of the movie because of how boring it was so that didn't really matter to me.
Horror has had more franchises dug up, crushed, reburied, dug up again and then crushed again by terrible reboots, sequels, and remakes than I believe any other genre in film. Well, here's another for you! The Grudge (2020) is about as drab and forgettable as any other poorly made January garbage out there. It doesn't even have the gall to be so bad that it's memorable. It's just so forgettably bland, it's bad. Let it die! And stop making Ring movies too!