'The Grudge' review: Not grisly enough
If a man who has been cursed to see ghosts and eventually dies violently sees a sliver of goodness, then a film as obtusely dreary as Nicolas Pesce’s The Grudge should have a few silver linings, right? (READ: Rage, fear in 'The Grudge' remake: An interview with 'Queen of Horror' Lin Shaye)
Unnecessary American reincarnation
There’s this scene in Pesce’s unnecessary American reincarnation of Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge where a tired husband (Frankie Faison) opens up to his house guest (Jacki Weaver), a woman whose job is to euthanize suffering people, about the curse that has befallen his household.
In a surprising moment of levity, the man doesn’t talk negatively of his predicament. He talks about how the curse has given him hope that there is something beyond death, that in some twisted sense, there is still some connection that binds everyone. It’s a brief moment, but it is perhaps the lone spark in a film dulled by its reliance on a repetition of scares.
Shimizu’s film isn’t exactly the best that's come out of the Japanese horror craze .
It is, however, the ripest for commercial exploitation, given that its main conceit of a curse being passed on by merely stepping inside a house where a violent death has happened allows for an onslaught of sequels and spin-offs. In fact, Pesce’s take has a direct connection with Shimizu’s film, with a woman (Tara Westwood) quickly leaving the same cursed Tokyo house for her home in America, not knowing that she has actually imported the ghost that has her violently massacring her family.
Pesce uses the same formula as Shimizu’s film, which assembles various storylines that all lead to some form of supernatural tragedy.
The formula of multiple narratives reveals both the silver lining and the trouble with this remake.
Let’s start with the silver lining which is the terrific cast. The Grudge is superbly acted. While a horror film would normally not require much from its actors and actresses leading production companies to populate the films with subpar thespians, Pesce has an ensemble to die for. Weaver is a breath of fresh air, adding necessary quirk to the repetitious cycle of mood and brutality. Andrea Riseborough, who plays the film’s main protagonist, shifts from the steely resolve required of a female cop to stark vulnerability with seamless believability. There are definitely moments in the film that reveal that there is more thought than just typical victim mentality that motivate the existence of these characters.
Sadly, the same thing happens over and over, despite the shifts in story and timelines.
The scares never escalate. They are never grisly enough, never pushing the envelope in terms of gore and shock value. The Grudge, despite its being enveloped with the most artificial of bleakness, is very tame, which is a pity since Pesce’s Piercing (2018) had moments of such visceral intensity that this horror film just sorely needs.
Needing an edge
This The Grudge needs its own grudge.
The film badly needs an edge, one that isn’t borrowed from a film from more than a decade ago. Sadly, this is a film that is satisfied being safe, too dependent on nostalgia and formula to work on its own merit. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.