“The Grudge” is a Metaphorical Mess

Gary Chapman
gchapman@lc.edu

“The Grudge” (2020) is a film that has a plethora of issues, originating with the fact that it is trying to be a spinoff of “The Grudge” (2004) while trying to be its own thing. This film is the 13th installment of the 呪怨/Ju-on series, which started with the 2000 Direct-to-video film “Ju-on: The Curse,” but the series became big after the first theatrical installment “Ju-on: The Grudge.” The film is written/directed by relative newcomer Nicolas Pesce, who directed the 2016 film “The Eyes of My Mother” and the 2018 film “Piercing.” Those films are considered average by Rotten Tomatoes

This film follows the style of the series, showing three stories in nonlinear order that are set in the house (44 Reyburn Drive) which has a curse brought on by a live-in nurse, who has been inside the house from the original “Grudge,” with a “main” narrative of a police officer investigating the house. That is the only real connection between this film and the other installments. 

The film, instead of having Kayoko and Toshio, the ghosts/onryō from the Ju-on films and the first three American ones, they decide to play horror trope #307: Creepy Ghost Girl™. Kayoko only appears for 30 seconds in the opening scene while the rest of the film uses the woman who killed her family, herself and her daughter as the spirit.

The acting by John Cho and Andrea Risebourogh is fairly good, with Cho playing a real estate agent whose wife is pregnant with a baby that has a high chance for a birth defect and Risebourogh playing the main protagonist, Detective Muldoon. 

The film does play up the trope factor. For instance, the insane man revealing info about the curse before gouging his eyes out, and the emotionally distant police officer, played by Demián Bichir. The real killer of this movie is the ending, which I am not going to spoil, but when I saw it, I was thinking “Are you kidding me?” with my mouth agape. The film currently has a 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is code for “stay away.” “Cats” has 20 percent by the way. I give it 2 out of 5 spooky girls for having decent acting, but terrible execution.

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