‘The Grudge’ Movie Review: Here Come Da Grudge

The Grudge is back! Or, it never really went away. That’s sort of the whole point of the Ju-On curse. You can never shake it. The original Japanese horror movie series kept going while hollywood made The Grudge and The Grudge 2. Now 2020’s The Grudge has a new story with new victims, but the same old curse.

New year, same ‘Grudge’

Like other Grudge movies, the 2020 film takes place in three different timelines which inevitably come together and/or pay each other off. In 2004, Peter Spencer (John Cho) brings the curse from a house he’s trying to sell to his home with his wife Nina (Betty Gilpin). In 2005, William Matheson (Frankie Faison) akss Lorna Moody (Jacki Weaver) to assist his wife Faith (Lin Shaye) in suicide. In 2006, Det. Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) reopens an old case even though her boss Goodman (Demian Bichir) tells her not to.

The Grudge: Demian Bichir and Tara Westwood
Demián Bichir and Tara Westwood | Allen Fraser/Sony Pictures

The disparate timelines are actually the film’s weakest element. They never quite find a way to ground each year, and they’re so close together it’s not like a drastic difference between the mid aughts. The connections are not surprising enough to warrant adding confusion to the story, but fortunately, if you take them all as little Grudge vignettes, it’s good for a scare.

Perhaps you can remember which cast is in which year. This is a strong cast, from horror veteran Shaye to A-listers Riseborough, Bichir, Cho and Gilpin. It’s great to see two mixed couples with no mention of it. It’s just normal in 2004-2004. One character runs the hell out of a Grudge trap so they’re all intelligent characters too.

Nicolas Pesce gives ‘The Grudge’ his own look

The Grudge is director Nicolas Pesce’s third film. His first, The Eyes of My Mother, was in black and white. Piercing was in color and set mostly in a hotel room. With The Grudge Pesce creates an aesthetic that’s unique to the Japanese films and the previous American remakes that mimicked them. 

Tara Westwood in The Grudge | Allen Fraser/Sony Pictures

Pesce’s look uses golden lighting instead of the cold blue of previous films. He creates an atmosphere where the dark space is far more striking, leaving the viewer even more on edge. Rest assured, you’re not safe in the negative space. The Grudge is waiting.

The goriest ‘Grudge’ yet

The Grudge is fast paced. There’s little down time between scares. You may lose track of what year you’re in, but there’s always something creepy or graphically violent to see. Some of the highlights include decaying fingers, a dead body in the living room and lots and lots of splatter. If you’re going to see a horror movie, The Grudge delivers intense moments in rapid succession.

Lin Shaye and Tara Westwood
Lin Shaye and Tara Westwood | Allen Fraser/Sony Pictures

One famous element of The Grudge is the croaking sound the curse emits whenever it’s about to strike. Pesce’s film cleverly picks and chooses its croak moments so that it’s not the same tone every time someone dies. John Cho does recreate the famous Grudge shower scene but even that is sort of a twist on the old “girl in the shower” in most horror movies.

Andrea Riseborough in The Grudge
Andrea Riseborough in The Grudge | Allen Fraser/Sony Pictures

Fans of The Grudge should appreciate some of the new twists on the formula, but viewers who were never into Ju-On may find new reasons to appreciate the latest American version. Don’t get too excited about the new storylines. Whether it’s dementia or a cold case, you already know The Grudge is behind it, but Pesce manifests the curse in effective ways.