“The Grudge” is back in cinemas after an 11 year hiatus, and after viewing this pointless remake, you’ll wish it stayed that way. This new version has the dubious honor of being the second time the story has been remade, yet it seems that no improvement has been accomplished in that time.

The plot concerns a Japanese curse — for some reason known as “the grudge” — that stems from a terrible murder in Japan. The victims’ ghosts then haunt those who visit the site of the murder which causes them to convulsively kill those close to them. Conveniently, the curse also follows these people to their own homes, which is how it shows up in a small Pennsylvania town. After an American housekeeper returns from living abroad several mysterious murders ensue, and newcomer cop Muldoon starts digging into the case.

Anyone familiar with the yearly movie schedule knows that January and February take the notorious distinction as the ‘dump months.’ This is when major studios release almost exclusively the worst films they have in their pipeline in the hopes that by the end of the year cinema audiences will have forgotten about them. Well, they’ve done a bang-up job with this latest cinematic dud. Does it bode well for these new ‘roaring twenties’ that the first film I saw in the decade might very well turn out to be the worst?

“The Grudge” began life as a Japanese horror film called “Ju-on,” and was later remade in english starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was an enormous success, raking in a healthy $187 million, and spawning two sequels. Therefore, it’s safe to say that its reputation and name recognition are the only reasons this latest film in the franchise exists because it certainly wasn’t made to tell an interesting story.

The concept of a curse following every individual within a certain household has been done more successfully in other horror films with better writing, unlike this script, which is stretched thin like a fat man’s pants desperate to make something out of it. Writer/director Nicolas Pesce — who had the ego to end the film with two separate title cards crediting himself — is no newcomer to the horror genre, which makes it that much less impressive how blah the script is. He clearly knows how to direct a horror film, with a decent sense of atmosphere and solid lighting by cinematographer Zachary Galler.

With this being said, the promising ambiance is shattered due to the over-reliance on jump scares. This involves long periods of time consisting solely of characters wandering through the environment, in supposedly tense silence, followed by some ghost popping out and screaming at the camera. It is the refuge of lazy filmmakers and consists of no substance, just like the rest of the movie.

With grindingly slow pacing, an ill-defined curse, generic characterization and a pointless R rating, “The Grudge” (2020) kicks off the new year very poorly indeed. It has some commendable performances and a competent crew behind the camera to say the least, but the bare-bones script leaves far too much emptiness for the film to be compelling. Anyone who sees this will not remember it within the span of a few days. The audience I watched it with, who spent most of the screening laughing, should indicate how poor the movie was in successfully generating cinematic scares and inducing a sense of horror.

Title: The Grudge

Star rating: One and a half stars.

Good:

  • Decent atmosphere.
  • Good acting.
  • Well done makeup effects.

Bad:

  • Derivative.
  • Poor pacing.
  • Dull story.
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