DIRECTOR: NICOLAS PESCE | SCREENPLAY: NICOLAS PESCE | STARRING: ANDREA RISEBOROUGH, JOHN CHO, LIN SHAYE, JACKIE WEAVER, DEMAIN BICHIR, BETTY GILPIN | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Set in the same universe as the other American Grudge films, this is the latest instalment of the horror franchise that, like Kayako's curse, does not want to stay dead.
Much like the previous movies, this story is recounted in non-linear order, allowing the audience to slowly uncover the true horrors of the story along with the central protagonist Muldoon (Riseborough). Sadly, it's one of the only elements that actually work in the film.
The story follows four primary plots: Detective Muldoon's story - as she attempts to solve what is happening at the cursed house; The Landers - the family responsible for bringing Kayako to America from Japan; The Spencers - a real-estate couple who were in the wrong place at the wrong time; and The Mathesons - an old couple who inherited the curse when they moved in post-Landers. The problem with this four-pronged approach here is that none of the characters or scenarios felt special or substantial, and the ties that link them together feel flimsy at best. Not only that, but a large majority of the deaths and scares within these sub-stories are highly predictable and, bar some terrific practical gore, just weren't scary - one would think that a lot of it was toned down by studio executives in order to hit that sweet PG-13 rating in the States.
The crucial positive to take away from The Grudge is the direction and artistic presentation of the film. Pesce is known for having a wonderful eye - just look at last year's superbly stylized Piercing or his 2016 debut The Eyes of My Mother. The Grudge utilizes an unnerving filter that enhances the grain and therefore feel of being a film from the time period it is set in. Each scene has a raw potential that builds up the tension through its sound design and camera placement - it's just the payoff that fails to make you even flinch in surprise, shock, or terror.
With a weak script, dull characters and predictable scares, The Grudge fails to deliver a truly memorable western adaptation of the Japanese classic and instead is something that just isn't scary. That said, it's not quite as forgettable as it could have been, and this is due to Pesce's excellent direction and artistic eye, coupled with an admirable performance by the ensemble cast. Unfortunately, these few positives won't be able to prevent the film from disappointing fans of its source or predecessors.