The intention to make The Grudge more than just another Ju-On remake is noble; but, Nicolas Pesce’s patch-up horror—with fetish of flies and decayed body—is lackluster.
Rebooting a failing remake is maybe the most logical or, otherwise, the most cringe-worthy gig a Hollywood studio would do. While the argument to right the wrong is plausible, the tendency to repeat the same mistake is as imaginable. Sadly, Nicolas Pesce’s remake of The Grudge (2004)—Takashi Shimizu’s own remake of his own J-Horror classic, Ju-On—tends to take the messed-up path.
While Shimizu’s 2004 remake attempted to position itself as close as possible to the source material (the remake went even further to place it in the same geographical map), it’s still a messy thread with more questions than actual terrors. One of the most bugging creative decisions is related to the mechanism of the curse, which becomes the franchise’s epicenter. Shimizu engineers the curse to work as a supernatural virus that infects whoever in contact with the OG house in a Tokyo suburb; however, the development to allow the curse to cross the ocean is, basically, debatable. However, Shimizu’s The Grudge is mainly leveraged by the atmospheric terror—inherited from the original story—and major roles for the iconic ghosts, Kayako and Toshio (The director went even further by casting the original actors for the first two entries of the American remake). Pesce’ Grudge is the first movie to not directly feature them in the storyline; as it claims to not follow any original plot directly.
Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother, Piercing) rewrote the script by Jeff Buhler to fit his directorial styles—murky, low-key, and slow-burn. Apparently, it’s his decision to distant the story from the Japanese version but hits closer to the American version as it sets around the time of the 2004 remake and the aftermath. Presented in the franchise’s signature non-linear narrative, the remake-reboot revolves on a new house of grudge on 44 Reyburn Drive, where the cursed fate of The Landers, The Mathesons (terrifically Lin Shaye from Insidious series and Frankie Faison), The Spencers (John Cho and Betty Gilpin), as well as Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) and Detective Goodman (Demián Bichir) get tangled in a lethal ghost-inflicted terrors.
The thing about the new Grudge is, it creates inconsistencies in the lore. There’s no reasonable mechanism on how the curse infects another across-the-continent house even when the plot goes further by acknowledging the event in the first remake. The original Nerima house in Ju-On might be a commentary to the social stigma in Japan about ‘suicide apartments’ with some touch of local spiritualism. When this idea is copied to the US, it’s become irrelevant. The story needs to find out a clear line to connect the dots. Instead of exploring this pivotal point, this reboot goes on making a predictable and derivative mirror image of the original Kayako family in the image of the Landers. The thing is, the imagery isn’t as iconic. It seems that the new reboot neglects the fact that Ju-On isn’t known for the plot nor the titular curse; the harrowing portrayal of Kayako and Toshio, as well as the haunting death rattle sound, are the keys. Otherwise, it looks like a cheap rip-off of Amityville Horror.
Pesce’s directorial style might deliver an atmospheric horror with occasional graphic imageries that might chill your bones. However, the narrative doesn’t add up. Those familiar with the franchise have never been drawn into well-engineered suspense but are exposed to some foreseeable horrors, which only works for Pesce’s fetish of flies, gouged out eyes, and decayed bodies. The rest of The Grudge is simply a series of cheap jump-scare for whatsoever reasons.