“The Grudge” (2020) – Movie Review

They say that when someone dies in a terrible rage, a curse is born.  They also say that when a movie franchise does well at the box office, it’s only a matter of time before another sequel/remake gets made.  Unsurprisingly, both of these ideas will be explored as we take an in depth look at the 2020 version of The Grudge (they really had to give the same title as the 2004 film?)

Spreading Like a Virus
The film begins at the infamous Saeki house in Tokyo back in 2004.  We see Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) on the phone with Yoko (from the 2004 movie), as she exits the house quite hastily and flies home for Pennsylvania, fearing that something isn’t quite right in that house.

Upon her stateside return, the film then intercuts between three tragic stories.  Chronologically speaking, the first is that of the Landers family, as well as a husband/wife team of realtors (John Cho and Betty Gilpin).

The second (set in 2005) deals with a woman with dementia (Lin Shaye), her husband who wishes to put her out of her misery (Frankie Faison) and an assisted suicide advocate (Jacki Weaver) who tries to help however she can.

And finally (in 2006), all the stories converge as two police detectives (Andrea Riseborough and Demián Bichir) digs into the history of the Landers house, and learns of its connection back to Tokyo.

The cast is really impressive and contains quite the who’s who of horror movies, including: Lin Shaye (Insidious), Demián Bichir (The Nun), William Sadler (The Mist), and Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs).

Previously, in the The Grudge 2 and 3, we saw how Kayako’s curse was easily able to spread.  But here, it seems to move at a faster pace than we ever realized.  And given the amount of people that cross paths between these houses, the victims of this sadistic spirit should easily reach the thousands in a mere matter of years!

Perfectly Passable…By Grudge Standards
In many ways, this feels like the true “American” remake, as opposed to the 2004 version.  Initially that “original” movie was meant to take place entirely in the states, but it was decided that unlike The Ring, it would retain its Japanese setting, and that Sarah Michelle Gellar’s “fish out of water” dynamic would only add to the tension.

And while that approach worked at times (as well as hiring original Ju-On director Takashi Shimizu), it did beg the question, “Why bother remaking it if the setting will still be Japan?”  This current version shows us what could have been, however it feels like it would have been far more effective had American audiences not already seen all these plot points and story beats played out by three Grudge films from 2004-2009.

They even did the exact same scare with Kayako’s hand appearing in someone’s hair as they take a shower!

In a strange way, making this film a sequel, rather than a true remake may actually hurt it.  Because if that’s truly the case, then seeing things like multiple timelines, jump scares involving bath tubs, and an attempt to burn the house down all just seem like cheap rehashes of a much more memorable film.

If this were the beginning a new continuity however, it would have been easier to chalk these up to homages to the original.  Plus, as previously mentioned, these ideas were new and compelling to English-speaking audiences back in 2004 when they saw Sarah Michelle Gellar toil with these same challenges.

The fact you make when the “sequel” does everything your movie already did…

The only real difference between this Grudge and the others, was that it boldly committed to its “R” rating, but never in a way that feels gratuitous or exploitative.  The “F” bomb is used sparingly and most of the “mature” content comes in the form of rare scenes of intense gore and brutality.  And because they’re not very frequent or common, when these bloody and grotesque spectacles occur, they have much more impact.

The Actual Neverending Story
Assuming The Grudge performs well (which should be easy, given its $10 million budget), this probably won’t be the last we see of the vengeful Kayako.  But if that’s to be the case, please Sony, on behalf of all horror fans, give us something different!

We heard Detective Goodman mention the FBI getting involved several times, so why not a Grudge sequel where the curse follows them back to the FBI headquarters in DC and maybe even reaching (and cursing) the White House itself?!  While this may sound farfetched or cheesy, it would at least be different enough to justify another sequel, something this film sadly never does.

Political horror worked for The Omen, so it can be done…

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