In a reboot of the 2002 film Ju-on: The Grudge, The Grudge (2020) succeeds at offering up a few shock scares, but not much else. The story fails to hold any interest and the general premise of the past and present storytelling makes the shoddy plot seem like a wasted opportunity. Written and Directed by Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother, Piercing), the latest “Grudge” iteration seems steadfast on orchestrating a few major screams from the audience, rather than deliver anything truly noteworthy. Although there will be an audience that enjoys this film, either based on nostalgia or the usual horror tropes, The Grudge doesn’t stand out in the genre, and will likely be forgotten after that first night of bad dreams.
The curse has traveled across the world, from Japan to a small town in Pennsylvania. 44 Reyburn Drive will forever be changed, a beautiful home infected by a curse that will affect any man, woman or child who steps though its doors. When Detectives Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) and Goodman (Demián Bichir) investigate an odd car-accident crime scene, it brings up old memories that Goodman tries to ignore. Curious and ambitious, Muldoon dives into the old 44 Reyburn murder files, and opens up a door of terror that can never be bottled up again.
The plot starts out by following a few cases that previously took place in the house. Pesce decides to bounce back and forth through time, telling the story from Detective Muldoon’s point of view. However, there isn’t much interesting subject matter, giving the vibe that Pesce prioritizes cheap thrills over good storytelling. Couple this with some bland acting, and there really isn’t much here, as not one performance stands out among the crowd. The cast are almost treated like props who are constantly getting spooked and not given a chance to do anything.
To be fair, Pesce’s reliance on shock value does pay off sparingly, as he truly can get the audience on the edge of their seats, if only for a few moments. The visual effects are downright creepy and will scare even the bravest viewers when they least expect it.
The Grudge is akin to walking through a haunted house with a constant slow tension that builds, leading to a fleeting jump scare that will soon be forgotten. This is absolutely a movie that knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more. Although a respectable sentiment, it does not change the fact that the film just isn’t very good. The Grudge feels like it is on the cusp of being something special. Unfortunately, it fails due to poor construction and ultimately, bad direction.