Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver, Frankie Faison, Junko Bailey, William Sadler, Tara Westwood, David Lawrence Brown, Zoe Fish, Nancy Sorel, Stephanie Sy, Joel Marsh Garland, Robin Ruel, Bradley Sawatzky
Written by: Nicolas Pesce, based on a story by Nicolas Pesce, Jeff Buhler
Directed by: Nicolas Pesce
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violence and bloody images, terror and some language
Running Time: 94
Date: 01/03/2020

The Grudge (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

This 'Grudge' Doesn't Budge

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A curiously talented and interesting cast was somehow lured into — and subsequently wasted in — this pointless, tired, umpteenth reboot/revival of the long-running Japanese-based horror series, Ju-On.

In The Grudge, a woman (Tara Westwood) returns home to her family in America, on 44 Reyburn Drive, after experiencing strange and unsettling things in Japan. Two years later, in 2006, widowed police detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) relocates to the area with her young son.

She is partnered up with Detective Goodman (Demián Bichir). They investigate a corpse in the woods, and Muldoon determines that there is a connection with the Reyburn Drive house, and investigates. There, she has a strange interaction with a woman (Lin Shaye) who lived in the house a year earlier. In the days following, Muldoon begins seeing ghosts of her own. Can Muldoon end the "grudge" curse and protect her son, or is there really no way to stop it?

At least the cast frequently keeps things sinking into total awfulness. The Grudge (2020) is the fourth American/English-language movie in the series, which, by some counts, now runs thirteen feature-length movies. The last one, the fun, tongue-in-cheek Sadako vs. Kayako (2016) — which pitted the stringy-haired girl Grudge ghost against the stringy-haired girl ghost from The Ring — probably should have put an end to it. But apparently the lure of profits brought down the curse once again.

The random unfairness of the entire idea, that simply walking into a house causes a person to be haunted forever, isn't really very interesting, and the scares dreamed up by director and co-writer Nicolas Pesce are strictly of the creaky old jump-scare variety; ghosts move in fast-motion, open their mouths really wide, and the soundtrack makes a huge "crash/bang!"

Even the familiar ghost Kayako, with her throaty, chittering moan and her threatening locks of hair, is woefully underused here. However, The Grudge is sometimes saved by moments of inspiration by the cast, notably Frankie Faison, whose beautiful speech about the afterlife and connectedness is unfortunately ignored and betrayed by the rest of the movie.

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