The Grudge Movie Review: Yet another unnecessary reboot
It tries to act as a reboot as well as a spiritual sequel of sorts, and thus it neither caters to the target audience nor works on its own
The Grudge, like the Godzilla franchise, has been taken over by Hollywood from Japan, where it enjoys a large fan following that has led it past film screens to novels, comics, and video games. Despite the first three films (English versions) getting not-so-favourable reviews, Sam Raimi, after taking a break for the third film, is back as the producer of the fourth in the series, The Grudge, which is directed by Piercing-filmmaker Nicolas Pesce.
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Lin Shaye
It's easy to start by pointing out the issues with The Grudge. The title is a good place to start, though perhaps we can give the makers some leeway for retaining the title of the first film given this is meant to be a reboot. The trouble, however, is that the events of the film actually make it a sequel to the long-standing series. And that's the biggest problem of The Grudge. It tries to act as a reboot as well as a spiritual sequel of sorts, and thus it neither caters to the target audience nor works on its own.
The Grudge does not stray much from the source material. If the franchise started because Takeo killed his wife Kayako and their son Toshio (in 2004's The Grudge), here, a woman kills her family. Though this woman connects the story to the main franchise, for some reason, The Grudge does not seem to make a big deal out of it. Considering how the rest of the story unfolds, it leaves you wishing it did.
Similar to other films in the series, and most films of this genre, The Grudge is also about a house that's haunted after an evil entity makes the place its home and terrorises family after family. Apart from the brilliant makeup and effects that the older films of the franchise managed to nail despite the technological limitations of their time, what has impressed me about the series in the past was the non-linear narrative. Despite the usual jump scares, the films managed to hold our attention as we were left to wonder how the plots intertwined. The Grudge 3 went against this norm and stuck to a linear plot. This new film brings back the non-linear narrative, but unlike its predecessors, the happenings here are harder to keep track of. And this despite huge timestamps taking over the screen at times.
The film tries a lot to make 44 Reyburn Drive an iconic address a la Room 237 in Overlook Hotel, but it fails to make the house itself an element the way previous instalments used the various rooms and storage areas of the suburban Tokyo house from the first film. The Grudge also takes itself too seriously and as a result, the characters are permanently straight-faced despite being played by actors such as Andrea Riseborough, John Cho, and horror genre-favourite, Lin Shaye.
Overall, The Grudge is a cliche, run-of-the-mill story that feels like it is from an era older than the early 2000s that the plot is set in. It's hard to fathom why the film spends a lot of time establishing characters and their backdrops when they mostly end up in a body bag. The mediocre scares and underwhelming performances do not help the film either. The earlier films were considerably scarier and The Grudge is just a lousy attempt to reboot a franchise, which has seen much better days.