• Release Date: 03/01/2020
  • Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, Lin Shaye, John Cho
  • Director: Nicolas Pesce

The publicity material of The Grudge presented it as a twisted new vision on The Grudge universe from Sam Raimi. I loved that line and it amounted to be a justifiable reason for making any more Grudge Films. There are innumerable Grudge Films and frankly speaking apart from the 2004 American version that was directed by the man who made the Japanese original films, none of the others made any impact whatsoever. I re-watched the American 2004 remake again yesterday night with my mother in a completely dark room on my full HD television with no interruptions and surround sound. The fact that it was smack in the middle of the night also made the atmosphere perfectly suited for the viewing. Even after all this, the film didn’t even unsettle my mother who was watching for the first time let alone have any impact on me. I for one, like the scrambled timeline and how they developed the story culminating in the big reveal. As was the case with the original, the story did make sense and hadn’t lost its novelty until then. There were some genuinely creepy moments and if we hadn’t seen some of the better recent horror films (The Conjuring, Insidious) it would have worked better. But that is not the case anymore.

Hence before remaking The Grudge, the makers first and foremost needed to work out a story that would be fresh, interesting, different and one that absolutely needed telling. However, after sitting through this latest offering, I realized that this was a film that was just a re-tread of all that we had seen in every other Grudge Films and was not even half as good as the 2004 American film that I take to be my standard for judging the American versions. The premise of this film is exactly what you expect it to be. There is a house that has a history of some brutal murders. The spirits that lurk in this house, attach themselves to anyone who dares to enter their domain. The film tells the story of three different timelines as two detectives try to unravel the secret of the house in the present times.

I knew straight away that this film would not be any different from the others when John Cho feels a hand protruding out of his head as he takes a shower. This scene sent shivers down many spines when it was first shown way back in 2004 but over the years, it has been repeated so many times in this franchise and other horror films that it has lost its novelty. I was livid with the director for not only bringing that one up but also using it on the posters. You are calling this film a twisted new vision and your poster has something that has been an integral part of the very first film of the franchise. How do the two things co-relate then? I moved on with it ignoring this hiccup and wanted to immerse myself in the narrative. I thought it may have some merit but within a few more minutes I realized that it was just going to bore me to death.

Everything that happens in the story is something that you have probably seen in some previous installment of the franchise or some other horror flick. That just drains the film of any curiosity or thrills in the horror sequences or even in the narrative. If the story was gripping maybe that would have resulted in the viewers forgiving the re-cycled scares but even that is hardly the case. You know which way each of the sequences was headed even as they tried to set it up. Most of the actors just walk through their motions in a robotic fashion not letting the audience form any kind of connection with the characters that they were playing. For me the worst thing that can happen to a horror film —that is approximately 100 minutes long — is it can turn out boring and not-scary. The Grudge can be diagnosed with both these terminal problems.

Unlike the other installments, where the detectives just filled in the details in the story and helped the Protagonists on the way to their discoveries about the Grudge, the detectives here are the ones through whose eyes we see the whole film unfold. That’s about all the difference there is to the layout and storytelling. Even that aspect is shunned from time to time as we move to the flashbacks and get to see a part of the story through the eyes of a different character altogether. This was another thing that consistently kept taking me out of the experience. Andrea Riseborough is the protagonist of the film and she plays a detective who is not only trying to solve the case but is also constantly tormented by the spirits. She has to balance between doing her work and keeping herself and her son safe. This could have been an interesting character had the screenplay been a bit more considerate of the character. Andrea Riseborough tries for a while to get the mood of the character but by the end of it gets evidently disinterested.

Demián Bichir is ever likable but he too is reduced to a mere prop. His character is so poorly written and has so little to do that there isn’t anything that he could do to salvage it. Lin Shaye is becoming a regular in films like this and she totally explains why. She is the only character that brought a semblance of interest to the scenes that she was a part of. She is appropriately crazy where she has to be and appears as someone who is definitely demented. I liked her act and wished there was more. John Cho was such a revelation in Searching and that is why it broke my heart to see him in the kind of role that he is made to do here. I have no specific complains from him but this was really a forgettable outing for him.

The Grudge could have been the perfect film of the day for me. The day here in Guwahati was dark, uncharacteristically cold and also had an untimely drizzle. To watch a horror film in this kind of an atmosphere adds a kind of eeriness to the experience and elevates the overall impact of the film. However, when the film is as bad as The Grudge, chances are that you would be looking at your watch more than the screen and hoping to make an exist as soon as the credits start rolling. You wait for it to end just so that you could recover the amount that you have paid for it in terms of viewing time and in doing that you subject yourself to a higher degree of torture. I was really expecting some fireworks from this film even after watching the morbid trailer but was sorely disappointed. 2020 is not up to a good start and I will never trust the mention of Sam Raimi’s name in a poster again.

Rating: 1/5 (1 out of 5 Stars)  



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