Let’s forget the fact that there’s nary a tongue-in-cheek moment, nor is there an instance of true filmmaking ingenuity. Let’s disregard the fact that all the characters make the same stupid decisions that dumb horror movie characters have been making since the inception of the horror movie genre (yes, let’s leave that child in the car with a half-open window outside an evil house at night; sure, let’s open that door after seeing a demon through the peephole). The Grudge 2020’s worst offense is that it utterly fails to find its own voice, its own take on the material. It fails to build any semblance of momentum. As a result, each of its purported “scares” falls flat on its ass.
True horror lies in the shadows, in “what’s beyond that door,” as opposed to, “here’s a spooky ghoul, boo!” The best, most terrifying moment in, say, M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs comes when Mel Gibson’s priest spots something in the reflection of a knife under a door. When the goofy alien is revealed at the end in all its glory, it feels like all the hard-earned tension’s being swiftly vacuumed out. The Grudge is all vacuum for 93 minutes. Creepy children with dark hair covering their faces? Check. Ghouls and ghosts with no motivation and distorted, rotten mugs appearing when the plot requires them to? Check. Random shapes gliding past unsuspecting characters in the background? Check. Screeching noises to emphasize jump-scares? Check-fuckin’-mate. Nothing here is left to the imagination, Pesce running down the list of clichés and ensuring he includes every single one. Once the realization that this is yet another cheap-o retread settles in (about 10 minutes in), the rest becomes agonizingly painful to sit through.
“Random shapes gliding past unsuspecting characters in the background? Check.”
You know you’re not getting any subliminal, disturbing, Lynchian motifs here. It’s as by-the-numbers as it gets. If I had to point out some highlights, I guess it’d be Lin Shaye’s demented performance – but by now, the horror stalwart can do this shtick in her sleep. Riseborough has proven to be a formidable screen presence – as have Bichir, Cho, Gilpin, and Weaver – but they all struggle to emote anything real amidst all this fabricated murk. Most egregious may be the pregnancy subplot, for it touches upon something very real and painful – just to literally stab any nuance to death.
The 13-year-old girls watching this film next to me seemed amused. They weren’t even born when the remake of the original came out, you see. That ominous, guttural croaking sound, you hear? It’s the sound of me groaning. Call it a grudge against Raimi for subjecting his audiences to such crap.