Sshhh… You hear that ominous, guttural croaking sound? That’s the Dream Factory burping out another regurgitated slab of post-holiday bile. In an attempt to capitalize on a property which itself capitalized on a property, it dumps Nicolas Pesce’s pseudo-shock-fest The Grudge into theaters. Granted, the 2004 J-horror remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar made a buck at the box-office, despite the turgid reviews. This new version serves as a fantastic reminder that certain cinematic sub-genres need not be resurrected.
It’s especially dispiriting to see producer Sam Raimi’s name attached to this lunk-headed project – but then again, he was responsible for the equally flimsy/unnecessary remakes of classics like Poltergeist, his own Evil Dead, and yes, you guessed it, 2004’s The Grudge. Back then, he enlisted Takashi Shimizu, creator of the original Ju-On: The Grudge, to adapt the 2002 Japanese hit for U.S. audiences. Unfortunately, the filmmaker seemed lost, unable to infuse the concoction with any fresh spices. So what does Pesce bring to the table 16 years later? The answer is…zilch. If anything, this is the worst Grudge of the bunch – including the two original sequels.
“…Fiona Landers catches the hex like it’s the flu and swiftly brings it back…consequently murdering her family…”
You’ve seen it all before — the year’s 2004 (for what reason, I don’t know). In a nod to the original, The Grudge 2020 starts off in Japan, in an abode cursed by a begrudging ghost. Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) catches the hex like it’s the flu and swiftly brings it back to the United States, consequently murdering her family and, I guess, possessing her house in the process. Now anyone who enters it is doomed – including Andrea Riseborough’s recently-relocated Detective Muldoon. Despite fellow Detective Goodman’s (Demian Bichir) warnings to stay away from the damned place, Muldoon doesn’t, risking her sanity and putting her son’s life in danger.
There’s also the hapless real estate agents, the Spencers, played by John Cho and Betty Gilpin, who encounter the house’s, um, evil in the midst of horrific pregnancy complications. As if that weren’t enough, the film manages to stuff in yet another storyline: that of the crazed inhabitant of the cursed building, Faith Matheson (Lin Shaye) and her ultra-supporting husband William (Frankie Faison). William enlists the Dr. Kevorkian-like Lorna Moody (Jackie Weaver) to put Faith out of her misery. The film awkwardly hops between these plots and timelines in a berserk frenzy, never for a moment managing to compel.